- Andy Murphy
How to Pick a Safe Preschool
Do you know what safety aspects to look for when picking a preschool for your child?
If you have a little one at home you might have thought about enrolling them in preschool for the first time. Some families, like mine, really had to find a good preschool because of our work schedules. And some people are learning they just aren’t cut out to be stay at home parents - and that’s okay. No matter the situation you’re looking for a good, safe place for your child to learn. This advice can also be used when picking a grade school for younger students as well.
As dads, we offer a unique perspective in choosing a good preschool for our kids. Moms have a litany of questions ready to go about curriculum, food allergies and communication. Be an involved father and look beyond the website and Google reviews to see how safe your children will be in someone else’s care.
Here are a few things to look for beyond the guided tour that will tell you what you need to know about picking a safe preschool for your child.
This is the first thing you need to ask about when calling to set up a tour of a preschool. What kind of background checks are run on the staff and teachers? Be blunt and ask if the director has ever had to turn down a candidate for job based on what they discovered. Also notice how seriously the director answers this question. If they side step it, watch out. If they look you in the eye and say it’s the most important part of the interview process, then you off to a good start.
As we saw in Florida this week, tragedy can strike at a preschool. When asking our initial questions about a preschool, ask how often a headcount is required when moving kids from place to place. This could mean from classroom to classroom or school to school. This will demonstrate how dedicated the staff is to maintaining a safe class throughout the day.
When you enter the building for your tour note how access is granted. Do parents and staff need a key card or code to open the main door? If the door is unlocked, with no noticeable way to control access to who enters, this is a bad sign.
I’ve written before about having a code word for your family. Make sure to inquire if the preschool you’re looking at require parents to create a codeword for adults other than you (grandparents) picking up your child? Do you have to notify the school that someone other than you will be picking up your kid? These are very common practices. This is important to ask because it will let you know more about the day to day security aspects of student dismissal.
Most all preschools have video surveillance. My son’s preschool had a 360 degree camera in each room that the director monitored frequently. Ask about where the cameras are in the classrooms, how often they are monitored and do they have cameras covering the exterior of the building.
When you get to sit one on one with the director on your tour, ask about the fire, inclement weather and intruder emergency plans for the facility. If the director can’t tell you every step of every plan, then you have a problem. Then ask how often the plans are practiced and discussed with teachers.
While walking the halls on your tour, look for the emergency exits. Are there piles of junk or trash cans blocking the doors? Are fire extinguishers mounted to the walls? Do you feel like your child can make it out of the building if he were in a panic?
It’s important to ask about the education levels of the teachers in the school. Many preschools require a college degree to teach, just like any public school. I feel this is a great standard to have. Ask about the requirements someone must meet to be considered for a teaching position. At this point you may want to inquire about the turnover rate at the school. If they are hiring staff once a month, then there may be a problem with the staff, not necessarily for the kids. Happy teachers make for happy students.
Chances are you’ll get to see a few kids when you take the tour of the facility. Make sure to notice how they appear. Are they happy, upset or just drugging along? See how they interact with each other and the teacher. This will tell you a lot about the classroom dynamic. A positive vibe in the classrooms means that everything is going well. Take this as a good sign.
Many churches and houses of worship have preschools. For some faith or membership may not be required to attend. If the preschool is faith based, make sure you understand their message and how they will teach your child.
Make sure you get names and contact information of current parents at the school from the director. You need to talk to parents at the school and see if they are happy with their experience. They can tell you a lot about what’s going on from a parent’s point of view. I’ve been a reference for my son’s preschool several times and I’ve enjoyed talking with prospective families.
Your Gut Feeling
This is an important part of making the decision about which preschool is best for your family. Your gut feeling, or intuition, will play a key role in the outcome. When you leave from a tour, note how you feel. Do you feel excited, happy or unsettled? Discuss these feelings with your wife and justify your feelings to each other. Make sure you are 100% satisfied with the preschool you choose for your child.
Good luck this coming school year. If have any further questions about picking a preschool, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.If you’d like to know more about family protection and the enjoyment of fatherhood, sign up for The Secure Dad newsletter. Here you’ll get unique insights you won’t find anywhere else.