If you’re new parents or are moving to Arizona with a toddler, you’re going to be looking for preschools. Choosing a preschool can be a very intimidating experience for parents. This is the place you are going to trust your baby to for hours on end. You’ll want to feel 100% confident in school management, the workers, the curriculum, and the space itself.
Pre-schools in Arizona
In Arizona, pre-schools and child care centers are regulated by the state government. You can use their database to search for child care providers within a zip code and by what provider type (whether it’s home-based or center-based). Outside of Arizona’s regulated pre-schools, there are also unregulated schools that are not overseen by the state and have limitations placed on them.
Unfortunately, Arizona does not have a state-funded pre-school program. Budget cuts in 2011 did away with this, and now pre-Ks are privately funded or funded through district budgets. This means that Arizona has a much lower percentage of children enrolled in pre-K, with only seven percent of 4-year-olds enrolled (as opposed to the national average of 29%).
How to choose
In Arizona, there are 304 top-rated private daycares and pre-schools that have over 43,357 students, with over 15 pre-schools in Chandler alone. This means that there is plenty of friendly competition for your child and for the school’s rating.
In Arizona, pre-schools have to follow specific rules and comply with state regulations. If they don’t, Arizona uses a progressive enforcement process that depends on things like:
· Number of deficiencies
· Repeated deficiencies
· Actual Harm
· And more
If you’re looking at state-regulated schools, know that these regulations and rules will apply to where your child goes. However, a considerable part of choosing the proper pre-school for your little one isn’t just about basic safety, it’s also about fit.
Finding the right fit
Initially, you should try to narrow down the list of available pre-schools based on location, price, and hours. Your pre-school should work with your lifestyle and not add more stress and way more driving time to your day. Once you’ve got a short list compiled, it’s time to start scheduling tours. Ideally, the first tours are done without the little one so that you can more accurately assess the space and talk with the staff.
From here, there are ten things that we recommend parents look for and ask about when they’re touring their preferred pre-schools. They are:
1. How teachers interact with the kids
It’s so important to see how teachers interact with the children. Do they get down on the kids’ level when talking? Do they have real conversations with the children? Teachers should have a genuine interest in their students, and the school should be employing staff that obviously care for the kids. Also, they should look like they really enjoy their jobs! Look for lots of friendly interactions, like high fives and words of encouragement.
2. Staff training
When talking to the director of the pre-school, they should know exactly what training each teacher is required to have and what professional development they get. CPR training, first aid training, and more are all invaluable skills for pre-K teachers to have.
3. Safety plans
Be sure to ask about the school’s emergency plans. While you may not want to consider the possibility, there could come a time when your child’s pre-K is under threat. Ask about fire evacuations, extreme weather scenarios, and other active threats and what plans the school has in place for them.
4. Classroom size and furniture size
The school’s environment is where your child will be learning and experiencing. Look to see if the classrooms are large enough for students to move around in, or if they’re crammed full of desks. See if there’s child-sized, accommodating furniture and ask how many children each teacher is responsible for and if there are teaching aides.
5. Student work in and around the classroom
Classrooms and hallways should showcase plenty of student work, so look to see if there’s art, pictures, and creations in the halls or in the classrooms. This is a space for kids, and it should feel like that right away. There should also be plenty of kids’ books, words labeling things, and access to fun writing utensils.
6. Communication between school management and parents
You should ask for (and be provided) with a school handbook from every pre-school you visit. In each of these, there should be processes for communication between school management and parents. Review this carefully. These should include monthly newsletters, emails, and how information will be relayed during unexpected delays or during weather issues.
7. Communication about your child
You should also know exactly how the school is going to communicate with you directly about your child. How do the teachers communicate with parents? How are you kept up to date on your child’s progress and kept abreast of any issues teachers may spot? Your child will spend a lot of time with these teachers, and they will often be the first to spot any troubling habits. Be sure to listen to them, even if it’s hard to hear!
8. Behavior management
The school should have clear guidelines laid out for classroom rules and etiquette that the children are expected to follow. Look over these guidelines and ask how they’re communicated and implemented. The guidelines should be age-appropriate and should also have clear consequences. It’s also beneficial to find out how teachers mediate disputes between the kids.
This isn’t pre-med! There should be lots of time dedicated to active play in the pre-school you choose. Play is how children learn, so it’s important to know how much time they will have to do just that. You should see blocks of time dedicated to allowing the children to learn in small groups with loosely guided plans (block building, telling stories, etc.)
10. Teaching plans and activities
Ask the director what goals are expected of children in each level. These goals should be age-appropriate and include lots of hands-on activities. Children should regularly be exposed to lots of exciting stimulus for their senses, like music, dancing, things to touch, and taste. Your child won’t learn by filling in worksheets every day.