Did you know if you want your child to join a preschool in September you need to be on the phone and registering that January (or sooner)? Let me tell you, I did NOT know that and discovering preschools in my area were on waitlists for the school year starting in EIGHT MONTHS was quite shocking. Having worked at a daycare that also housed preschool classes I knew what I was looking for but I had no idea I was behind on looking. If you are not behind on looking but aren't sure what you're looking for, I have a list of questions you should ask on your next tour broken down into three different topics.
Questions to Ask on a Preschool Tour
There are a plethora of questions we should ask the establishment we are going to drop our children off at for an extended period of time. It is important to cover all aspects of the day starting with as soon as they walk in the door.
Preschool Tour Topic 1: Safety & Security
What are your security measures?
When you drop-off in the morning do you need to be buzzed in? Do you need to scan your fingerprint? Sign into a computer system? Present your ID?
When picking up are the same measures taken? Are more measures taken?
What happens when you need someone else to pick up your child? What does the school require? A signed waiver? A copy of that person's ID?
Before we leave our kids in the care of a facility it is important to make sure they are doing everything they can to keep our kids safe. The daycare I worked at required parents to scan their finger in order to have the door open for them, they then were required to login at a computer and check their child in/out. There was also a manned front desk that parents would need to pass in order to get to a classroom.
What safety drills do you practice?
How often do they conduct fire drills? Where do they evacuate to during a fire drill? Do they practice natural event drills; tornadoes, earthquakes? Do they practice intruder (or lockdown) drills?
Talking to a facility about the threat of an intruder may be scary to you but it is necessary. You need to know your school is prepared for the worst case scenario.
Are there cameras in the building?
Where are the cameras located? Is there one at the front entry? Are they just in the hallways? Are they in every classroom?
How can you access the footage? Is there an app that allows you to check on your child's class in real time? Does the footage self-delete after a certain amount of days?
If the "tapes" from the cameras are kept in house and self-delete after a certain amount of time it is important to know how long you have to request to see a specific day if there is ever an incident you are concerned about.
If there is an app that allows you to view your child's class in real-time who can access this app? What are the procedures of gaining access to the live-feed? Is any footage retained in house in case there is an incident?
Preschool Tour Topic 2: Qualifications & Certifications
Are you an independent facility or part of a corporation?
If they are part of a corporation they are most likely not only licensed but also accredited. Furthermore, they are most likely being given a curriculum to follow. If they are privately run, they may still be accredited though more likely not. Private preschools must still be licensed with the state but will no doubt have less check-ins than a school that has a corporate level above them.
The daycare I worked at was part of a corporation and we often had visits from higher up to make sure our facility was in tip-top-shape. Independently owned facilities will have to meet state guidelines but will not have a board of directors to adhere to.
If they are not being supplied their curriculum from above, where are they obtaining their lesson plans?
Who on your staff is CPR certified?
Ideally, for me, the answer to this question will be everyone. However that might not always be the case, at the very least I would hope one teacher in every classroom is CPR certified.
Preschool Tour Topic 3: Day to Day Activities
Do you provide a daily sheet?
Some places will have a print out that states what your child did, any special (good or bad) interactions or incidents, if lunch is had it will outline how well they ate and if nap time is offered it will say how long they slept.
Other places will send an email each day or a weekly roundup. Some places won't communicate anything at all. I was on a tour myself and the preschool told me they don't have a daily sheet as they are trying to waste less paper and when I inquired about a daily or weekly email she looked at me as if I had two heads.
This was a major turn off to me personally because this particular place was also of the mindset that they didn't need to send home any work with the children. Anything the class worked on was reusable. So how was I to know what my child did all day? If the school isn'y sending home a daily sheet or sending an email and they also aren't sending home any completed work, how am I to gauge my child's progress or know what she's learning?
What is your food policy?
If the preschool is attached to a larger daycare facility chances are they provide lunch and snack and possibly even breakfast as well. If they are just a preschool be sure to ask if they have any kind of snack time.
Some preschools do not have any snack time due to their programs being half day. If the preschool has a snack time ask if they provide snacks or if parents are expected to pack snacks. Furthermore, if snacks are allowed and are brought from home, places are frequently becoming nut-free, so be sure to ask which ingredients, if any, are not allowed on facility grounds.
How often do the kids play outside?
Again, if the preschool is attached to a larger daycare they'll have outside time built into their day as children are potentially there longer. If the preschool program is only 9 to 12 or 1 to 4 be sure to ask if they have outside play built into their schedule.
Questions to Ask on a Preschool Tour (Checklist)
Now I know this may seem like A LOT, and frankly it is. So to make it easier, I created this handy checklist for you to take with you on your next preschool tour.
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