The Independent School Search
Some parents rule out their public elementary school and commence the daunting task of exploring independent institutions.
By Renee Sklarew
Ginny Poole and her husband live in Georgetown; they have two girls. While the children were in pre-school, the couple began researching elementary schools. Poole wanted an independent K-12 school that was well-rounded, co-ed, with an emphasis on the outdoors. The school had to have strong academic, sports and arts programs.
“It was a two-year process; we toured schools even before we started the application cycle. We talked to people, read information online,” states Poole, though her decision was influenced by intuition. “You can be as logical and methodical as you want, but ultimately, it’s a visceral response to a place.”
When it was time to decide, the family chose Potomac School in McLean. “We live in a dense environment, so when we went to Potomac School, we had a strong reaction to the 90-acre campus,” adds Poole.
Both the state-of-the-art facilities, and the head of school, Geoffrey Jones, who formerly ran Thomas Jefferson High School, impressed Poole. She and her husband are scientists and were excited that Potomac School emphasizes science, math and engineering. She also liked the dress code—students looked “neat and tidy,” and some wore uniforms (grades 4-8). And, Poole appreciated the school’s culture of courtesy, as well as daily bus service. Yet another draw: In the early years, homework is kept to a minimum “to instill a love of learning.”
Families take a variety of paths when choosing an elementary school. Parents must decide what environment best meets the needs of their child and family. Clearly, young children thrive in schools that offer intellectual discovery and opportunities for personal growth. Yet, all experts agree, an important factor that helps ensures success is creating a partnership with your child’s school.
Fairfax County’s Andrew Camarda concludes, “If you have concerns, contact your child’s teacher, request a meeting, share what you’re seeing. Then together you can collaboratively develop an approach to handle those concerns. … Talk it out.”