If you’re shopping for a home in the Boise area, you already know your decision hinges on a lot more than updated appliances or square footage; you’re vetting more than just four walls to sleep in.
You’re also examining how the particular neighborhood, community, and school district fits your family’s needs, and that’s a bigger task than taking a quick home tour. When you choose a new home, you’re also selecting a broader community to be a part of, including your child’s future school. If you plan to stay in an area for several years, you could be determining their access to every school they’ll attend throughout their K-12 education.
This means home shopping is also school shopping, and it’s time to do some homework. As with looking for a new house, choosing an ideal school starts with asking the right questions.
1. Determine What Your Family Wants and Needs
Every family has different preferences and necessities. Keeping this in mind, you should do away with the simplified thinking of “good” and “bad” schools; the reality is much more nuanced than that. Just as you wouldn’t choose a home only by square footage or other metrics, you shouldn’t select a school based solely on test scores. You’ll want to find a school that fits your child’s unique needs and learning style, and that requires more than a quick Google search.
To determine your family’s ideal school, consider these questions:
- Do we prefer public, private, or charter schools?
- What is our preferred educational model (classical, global, Montessori, etc.)?
- What programs are most important to us (sports, music, theater, etc.)?
- What school qualities are most important to us (teacher to student ratio, parent involvement, access to extracurriculars, etc.)?
2. Gather Firsthand Information
Once you’ve landed on a few must-haves and wants for your future school district, it’s time to start asking around. There are a few great sources for information about particular schools in the area you’re researching.
- Schools: Of course, you should hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Visit the school’s website and read the information they offer. Call the school you’re considering and ask for a tour. While you’re there, interact with teachers, staff, and students alike and keep an eye out for evidence of both pros and cons. You can also attend a PTA or school board meeting to get a feel for how leadership and parents interact. PTA members can be a great resource, as well, offering an honest review of the school.
- Parents: If you’re moving a few neighborhoods over, you may already know friends who have children enrolled at the schools you’re considering. If you’re looking at a cross-country move, asking for parent opinions can become more difficult. It’s worthwhile to connect with a local parenting group to ask about firsthand experiences with particular schools. In Boise, you can join groups such as Boise’s Babies and Tots to ask about potential schools via Facebook or in person.
- Online: Websites like GreatSchools and SchoolDigger offer ratings from parent reviews and other metrics to help you gain more insight. Of course, these ratings are often based on incomplete information or on the opinion of only a few individuals, so take these and similar websites with a grain of salt.
3. Plan Ahead When Choosing a School
Although it may seem overwhelming to carefully examine even one school, it’s important to look at the entire district you’re considering as well. Your children could be in kindergarten and second grade at the moment, but the house you purchase now could determine their access to middle schools and high schools in the future.
Don’t get too far into the weeds, of course; there’s such a thing as planning too far ahead. But if you’re contemplating staying in your next home for several years, all prospective schools are something to consider carefully.
4. Remember Nothing Is Set in Stone
Although your decision feels (and is) important and terrifying, remember: you can change course if things aren’t working out. Whether you try out a charter school, enroll in a public school, or venture into the worlds of private and homeschooling, you’ll be able to pivot if you find your particular choice doesn’t fit your family perfectly. Because of Idaho’s school choice laws, families have plenty of flexibility in choosing schools.
Living in Boise has the additional perk of open enrollment: the school district allows families to apply to attend schools outside their neighborhood. The Boise School District website states, “We recognize the desire of some parents/guardians to enroll their children in a school other than their neighborhood school, from either within or outside of the Boise School District.” Even if you find your area public school isn’t meeting your child’s needs, there are still options.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed just thinking about all of this, we understand. The good news is, we know Boise—and we can handle the house shopping while you run point on the school shopping. Call or text us anytime for help finding your ideal home and for all the expert Boise-related information you need.
Originally published in April 2018, updated August 2020.
Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. From Southeast Boise to The North End, up to Eagle and West to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals.