12 Tips for the Montclair Elementary School Tours

Have an incoming kindergartener in Montclair? Then sit down right now with a fifth of vodka. That’s what I did last year before, during and after the process of finding the right school for my precious twin heathens.

Maybe you’re totally calm and cool about the whole thing. Maybe you really do believe what everyone says: “All the schools are great.” (They are–yet one will jump out and charm your pants off.) If you’re that cool, collected person, I’m insanely jealous of you. (*Drink*)

For those of you who may be nervous about touring, I’ve come up with 12 tips to make it easier based on my experience last year. Apologies in advance, but my advice only applies to parents who are able to go in the mornings. 

  1. Hit two schools a day–ones that are close to each other. I did Bullock/Nishuane on Monday, Northeast/Bradford on Tuesday, Edgemont/Watchung on Wednesday and Hillside on Thursday. Find the full schedule here.
  2. Go to your least favorite of the two schools first and leave early so you make it to the next school. The second tour of the day isn’t as crowded, and you’ll get to spend more time there as tours inevitably linger on.
  3. Listen to the principal. Why? Because they make you. Bring your flask.
  4. You’ll see parents who arrive with notebooks. Point your finger at them and laugh.
  5. Save your questions until the end of the tour. You actually want to hear what the guide says about the school’s strengths while you judge study the classrooms and the quality of the artwork on the wall. Different schools stress different themes; you can tell if you just look and listen. Amenities–art rooms, theater, gym, technology and cafeterias–also vary widely among the elementaries.
  6. If there’s a jabber-jawed parent on your tour who keeps interrupting the guide, skip right on over to a different group. No one will notice or care.
  7. Be willing to totally change your mind. Before the tours, I was sure my kids belonged at Nishuane. Then I chose Northeast. (Which we got. *Drink*)
  8. When it’s all over, obsess about your options with your friends, spouse and kids until you get TMJ. Then ignore all of the advice you collected and stick to your gut instinct.
  9. Or do what I did: Pick the school that offers you the best bus or walk option with the start time that you like.
  10. Strategize. Or feel free to be totally sane and skip this part. I actually have even more advice on this that I shall keep to my politically incorrect self unless you bribe me with Ketel.
  11. Turn in your forms–wait until the end of the week when it’s less crowded–and wait until July. If you choose Nishuane or Bullock, you’ll probably get what you want. The other options are more competitive because fewer spots are open. Don’t be discouraged. Every single person I know from last year got the school they wanted–some just had to be patient and go through the summer appeal process.
  12.  (*Drink*)

I have another incoming kindergartener in the fall, but he automatically gets in. So this year, instead of taking tours, I’ll be giving one on Tuesday at Northeast at 9 a.m. I’ll definitely toast to that.

(Photo:Flickr)

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1 COMMENT

  1. You left out the tip of making a spreadsheet with the test scores of each school to mathematically calculate your kid’s best chance of making it into Harvard.

    My tips would be to: 1. Keep an open mind. 2. Review the article written on Baristanet last year that highlights the pros/cons of each school: https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2011/04/montclair-kindergarten-tours-another-mothers-take/#more-12327

    3. Consider that what you are looking for a kindergartener may not be the same things that would look good for a 4th grader.

    See you on the tours…

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