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How does the school system work?

How does the school system work?

Old Jan 19th 2014, 3:45 pm
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Default How does the school system work?

Hi - we're a British couple with a 3 year old and a 4 year old moving to Houston next month. Really confused about schools and how it works. Do we choose a nice area to live in and then try and find a school? Or do we try and find a good school then choose a home? Not sure how it all works in terms of catchment areas etc?

We're thinking about the Sugarland/Katy areas.

Any advice will be much apprecaited. TIA. Fi
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 3:55 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

School districts are rigidly fixed. Find a house and you will automatically know which school your children will attend. This is the main reason why superficially similar houses sell for dramatically different prices - houses in catchment areas for cräppy schools sell for substantially less.

The way many Americans look for houses is to first decide which schools they want their children to attend, then only look for houses in the relevant catchment area. Weird, but that's how it works here.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 3:55 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Originally Posted by FavFi View Post
Hi - we're a British couple with a 3 year old and a 4 year old moving to Houston next month. Really confused about schools and how it works. Do we choose a nice area to live in and then try and find a school? Or do we try and find a good school then choose a home? Not sure how it all works in terms of catchment areas etc?

We're thinking about the Sugarland/Katy areas.

Any advice will be much apprecaited. TIA. Fi
Can't be sure about Texas, but assume it's much the same everywhere.

Catchment areas are all, and usually hard and fast. Absolutely find your school first and your home second. If it's the same as Illinois, your four year old will have to be 5 by September 1 to start kindergarten - that may be different in your school district though. Prior to age 5, any schooling is done in a (usually private) "pre-school".
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 5:38 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

50 states, 50 rules....but the gist is explained up in the wiki up top...

Some school districts are very strict on birth date for getting into kindergarten, others are more flexible.

The 3 year old will be expensive if you're not looking after yourself.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 5:49 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Not sure about Texas, but in Colorado you can choose a school of choice, although you are given a default school based on your house location.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:11 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Generally, as a newcomer outsider you will get the worst school in the school district where your house is located.
As others have said, school district first, then house.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:29 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Originally Posted by holly_1948 View Post
Generally, as a newcomer outsider you will get the worst school in the school district where your house is located.
Probably a moot concern as there's often just the one school in the catchment area in the school district and they have to take you on.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:41 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Originally Posted by holly_1948 View Post
Generally, as a newcomer outsider you will get the worst school in the school district where your house is located.
As others have said, school district first, then house.


Not quite sure what you mean about that?

Our district will allow intradistrict transfers (in fact a lot of school districts do) but you would have to provide transportation to the chosen school and of course there has to be room at the school.

In fact, you can also choose to go out of your district here. But sometimes it's harder to get into a good district if the schools are at capacity or overflowing.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:42 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

As you can see it varies by school district.. that's a lot more than 50. Often you can request a school outside your school catchment area, but within the district. .However, if its a good school, there will probably be no places left for new comers, as those who have attended, but moved and those with siblings in the school, will probably get preference.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:50 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

I live in katy, Texas.

Where you live dictates the schools your children attend. Some communities have children attend 2 different schools depending on which street your home is on. Although my youngest won't be starting the education system here until he is 5 1/2, so at the moment I pay for him at part-time nursery.

IMHO i would suggest you pick the school and then find the house. I have nothing but good things to say about Katy ISD. My other boys attend Junior High (13) and High School (15).

Good luck x
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:51 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Our school district (and possibly the whole state of AZ?) is open enrolment, which means you can theoretically place your child in any school of your choice. Of course, in practise, the good schools won't have any places.

We took a rental house in the catchment of the best school in the district; they weren't even interested in making an appointment to show us round until we had a bit of paper with an address on it. They had zero places for anyone not in catchment and a waiting list already; it'd be pointless. But because we moved into their catchment - pop! my then 2nd grader and 6th grader were eligible to start the next day.

We've now moved out of their catchment because we bought a house in the next block over, but my now 4th grader is allowed to continue to go there. I have to fill in an out of boundary request form each year, and although they don't 100% guarantee she'll get a place - there could be a sudden in-catchment influx of 10 yr olds - the office staff tell me they've never booted out an existing student in 20 years.
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Old Jan 19th 2014, 6:57 pm
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

Usually HAR.com will include details of which catchment area a house falls into. Then you can check on greatschools.org to see how it ranks. KISD is all pretty high ranking.

It's a firm Kindergarden entry date here so it depends on your child's birthday as it if they will start in Kindergarden this summer or next.
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Old Jan 20th 2014, 12:03 am
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

This is our primer on the education system and process of enrolling. It might answer some general questions.

What do I need to enroll the kids in school?

http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Educat...s_in_school%3F
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Old Jan 20th 2014, 2:53 am
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

As others have said, in Katy (can't talk for Sugarland, but assume similar) entry to school is pretty firmly age based ... Must be 5 on 9/1 (or possibly 8/31, not sure...check it out if that difference is critical!). I know a couple of kids that have managed to sway that by a few days, but they are very much the exception to the rule.

Catchment areas are also pretty rigid. I'm not aware of any flexibility to apply to go to a different campus unless 1) you work for the school district, in which case you can have your kids attend the same campus as you, or 2) you are accepted on the dual language immersion program, which is only run on certain campuses. Other than that, you will be going to the school that your house is zoned to.

I think round here it goes hand in hand that a decent area has a reasonable school, and the reasonable schools are mainly in good areas. Again, there are exceptions, but they are rare. A teacher with a lot of years in the district once told me that there was a massive correlation between parent volunteer hours and standard of the school, and our campus is being asked to be a "big brother" campus to one in another part of the district by "sharing" our volunteers with them.

I would start with the school end, but don't limit yourself to just 1 campus as that would be massively limiting on houses. Whatever some of the more "snobby" campuses will tell you, there is actually very little to choose between a lot of the top elementaries. For example, we live in the Southwest corner of the district, and there are 8 or so elementaries within easy reach of us. I'd be happy for the kids to go to any of them, although one of them is in the "snobby" category, and while the standard of education would be comparable to the others, I don't think I could stand the atmosphere with some of the parents!! What I would be careful with is going into an area that still has a lot of development going on (think far west) as that increases the chances of your campus being rezoned.
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Old Jan 20th 2014, 7:23 am
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Default Re: How does the school system work?

thanks so much to everyone who has posted a response - it's really helpful!
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