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Explaining St. Louis Schools

Explaining St. Louis Schools" overlaid on a background of colored pencils

A stat cited in a 2018 Washington Post article estimated that 73% of homebuyers place a great deal of importance on schools when searching for a home. Education options often outweighed other items on a buyer’s wishlist, such as a garage, updated kitchen/bath, a certain number of bedrooms, or a large yard.  

Setting aside COVID and what the pandemic has done since (and may continue to do) to in-school and remote learning, parents still have concerns about where their children will go to school. Even empty-nesters and people without children usually want to know what the local options are and how they could impact future resale values. 

When it comes to St. Louis schools, there is a wide variety of choices. People relocating to the region often need some help navigating the various local school systems to find what is best for their children. Knowing what is important in a school and understanding what is available can help give a clearer picture of where to look for a house. 

What Is Your Ideal School Environment?

Newcomers to the area might wonder “are St. Louis schools any good?” That is a far-too-vague question. St. Louis and the surrounding counties have no shortage of schools that can provide a quality education, have dedicated teachers, and offer wonderful sports and extracurricular activities. 

Instead, parents should ask which type of school is right for their kids, and do some research on the individual schools in their target area. There are websites like greatschools.org that rank schools based on a number of factors. Whatever method you use to choose a school, remember that just any single element—good test scores, a successful sports program, a beautiful campus—never tells the complete story. Dig a little deeper and consider some of these:

Staff. Find out what you can about the principals, superintendent, and teachers in a given school district. Their qualifications and longevity in their jobs can make a difference. If the school has a Facebook page, see how the staff communicates with parents, students, and the public.

Parents. Are the parents active in school activities? What type of interactions do they have with the staff? If possible, see if you can find some current school parents to talk to.

Specialized Learning and Extracurricular. If your child would benefit from accelerated, advanced-placement classes, or special education classes, be sure to see what the school has to offer. Do they have programs for STEM or vocational education? The same goes for children who are involved in athletics, music, or the arts. Make sure the school can accommodate the child’s interests or needs.

Extras. Does your child need a school that offers tutoring, before- or after-school programs, summer school, or meals? Add these to your shopping list.

Atmosphere. Just as you will tour homes, arrange for a tour of the schools in the area. Pay attention to how friendly people are, how well stocked the library is, security and safety, and the overall feeling of the environment. Does it seem like a place where your child will thrive?

Types of St. Louis Schools

Two kids getting off of a St. Louis school bus

When it comes to researching education options in St. Louis, you will want to be familiar with the following terminology. Not every region of the country is the same in how they refer to some of these school types:

Public District Schools

These are tuition-free neighborhood schools with geographic dividing lines. In the city, they are run by the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) and governed by an elected school board. It is important to pay attention to the dividing lines when looking for a house. Moving one street over or around a corner could put you in a different district than the one that includes your desired school.

Public Charter Schools

These are tuition-free schools that run independently of the SLPS but are accountable to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). They receive state funding and have the same state assessment requirements as SLPS schools. Some are open to any child who lives in the city, while others require residence within a certain zone. Schools may have a limited number of seats available each year and use a lottery system to award them. Others allow walk-in enrollment.

Public Magnet or Choice Schools

These are tuition-free schools run by the SLPS and the school board but have a specific focus or theme. They include schools for the arts, for gifted students, and Montessori schools. Students must meet certain criteria or testing requirements for their application to be accepted. Enrollment in magnet schools can be highly competitive. For this reason, they may also use a lottery, if they have a limited number of places to fill.

Private Independent Schools

These schools are run independently of the state and city school boards. They charge tuition and receive no public or government funding. Any child who completes an application and can pay tuition will be able to attend. In many cases, financial aid and scholarships are available. 

Private Faith-Based Schools

Also known as parochial schools, these offer religious education in addition to traditional academics. They are run by the particular religious institution and a board of directors, rather than the state and city school boards. They do not receive public funding and charge tuition instead. Financial aid and scholarships are often available.

Homeschooling

Two boys working on homeschool work at kitchen table

Parents sometimes opt to homeschool their children instead of sending them to a St. Louis school. They do not need teaching qualifications and have no assessment requirements, though do have to track progress and must include Missouri’s state-mandated subjects in the curriculum. Mandated subjects include a certain number of hours in reading, math, social studies, language arts, and science. More about Missouri’s homeschool laws can be found at hslda.org

Hybrid or Split-Schedule Schooling

St. Louis and Missouri allow children to attend a traditional school part-time, along with at-home or online learning. This has been an option for high school students for years, as they split time between regular classes and college enrollment, or at a job through a work-study program. In recent years it has become a growing trend for younger kids too. Parents should ask prospective schools about what requirements and resources exist for this hybrid style of learning. 

Shopping for Schools and Houses Together

When considering where to buy a house, parents need to think of their children’s education, as well as what homes are available. Gather information with some online research and asking around. 

Try to talk to at least a few of the parents from any given school, and definitely schedule a tour. You will want to see for yourself where your children will spend their days. 

The real estate agent you work with should be able to give you a good idea of the school choices. He or she may even have a child enrolled in one of them. Contact Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties to find the perfect St. Louis house—and the perfect St. Louis school.

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