I have been dealing with school related questions over the last week in relation to a listing of ours. Not really surprising that parents are concerned about the schools when buying a home! In fact our listing is in the catchment area for one of the best high schools in BC and that helped us sell it within a week. Hence this mini-guide to some of the things to think about when buying (or renting). See also our guide to choosing a school.
For many people schooling is very important, and if that is true for you then you may well start your home search by checking out the schools. As my guide says this can involve looking at academic records (The Fraser Institute scores) and partly getting a sense of the school’s character.
For example, the seller of our listing is an ex-teacher, so is well placed to judge. She told us how impressed she was by the local elementary school because of the respect that the pupils gave to the teachers and parents. They were well behaved and did things like thank teachers for giving up their lunch break to supervise them.
If you know what school or schools you’d prefer then the next thing is to find out how the decide on which children to accept. Each school district can be somewhat different in its rules and procedures. So first of all check what school district your home is in. Most school districts have rules on catchment areas, though some still have open boundaries.
If, as is likely, there are requirements for you to reside in the catchment area, your challenge is to find a home in that area. A good realtor will be able to help you buy a home in specific areas. You can double check with the school board, and most have on-line school locator tools – just enter the address and it tells you the eligible schools.
Renting is harder as there are few rental agencies and little availability. You will most likely need to find a place and accept a place in the local school. It is rare for schools to be really bad. Most of our clients have been happy with their local schools.
The other option is to look at private schools. These too differ in quality, but there are no catchment area issues. You do have to pay the fees though!
A growing trend is for parents to look for schools offering the IB program (International Baccalaureate). The advantage of this is that the program is the same world-wide, so if you are likely to move countries again, your child’s education will not be unduly disrupted.
Remember to take into account the practical issues of getting to and from school. Some schools have school buses to get kids to and from school, which can help. Our kids enjoyed going on the bus as it is a great way to make friends in the neighbourhood and is an enjoyable part of their day. No school bus, then you could be car pooling, sending them on public transit or even letting them walk!