For first-time parents, or parents just beginning to look into preschools and day cares, the whole process can seem overwhelming. You’ve found a few choices in your neighborhood, but you don’t even know where to start in terms of what to ask. Here are some tips from Kelly Skopil, the program director at the Clackamas YMCA Child Development Center in Oregon City.
Parents should plan to give themselves enough time prior to starting a new program to ask a few questions to make sure it will be a good fit for their family’s needs. It’s important to ask about:
- Tuition fees and policies — are the fees all inclusive or are there additional costs during the year?
- What are the vacation and cancellation requirements? (Do you still need to pay if you’re pulling the kids out for a three week summer road trip, for example?)
- What are the staffing requirements, experience, and kid:teacher ratios?
- Does the program provide lunch and snacks? If your child has an allergy or special dietary need, can the center accommodate your needs?
- Curriculum offerings, both in the classroom and outdoors. Parents may want a particular curriculum style/method depending on what they feel their child’s needs are. For example, the YMCA uses Creative Curriculum, which focuses on an individual child’s needs and learning styles.
- What security features and policies does the facility have, such as secured entry and pick up policies? Oregon requires an open door policy for custodial parents, so it’s important to make sure that parents have access to their children and the program during all operating hours. (Skopil notes that the Oregon Early Learning Division has proposed an expansion of the background check process for child care staff. Currently, only those who have lived outside of Oregon for more than 18 months need to be finger-printed; the changes would require fingerprinting for all child care staff. Washington state already has a similar rule in place.)
- Accreditation. Parents may want to know the program they are attending has been accredited through a third party agency for quality. This could include NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), an organization that has informative materials online on what to look for in quality child care, or a state initiative such as QRIS (Quality Rating Improvement System) in Oregon or Early Achievers in Washington.
What other questions are/were important to you in picking a preschool? Let us know below!