Bridging the Gap Between Families and Schools
When parents ask Show Me KC Schools staff for school recommendations we typically say, “There is not one right school for every child.” Montessori, project based learning, constructivism, language immersion, international baccalaureate—every district, charter, private and parochial school in the Kansas City Public Schools’ (KCPS) boundaries has unique offerings and a different school culture.
For many parents, the journey to find the right school for their children is confusing and, at times, overwhelming. Show Me Schools’ mission is to help families make well-informed decisions about the school options available. Often, we describe ourselves as a “bridge” connecting families with schools and other families on a similar school search journey. A goal since our nonprofit’s launch three years ago has been to organize an annual event to bring together our schools and families from every neighborhood in the KCPS boundaries, under one roof.
Last month, our goal became a reality with our first K-12 “City School Fair,” co-hosted with the Kansas City Public Library and the Office of the Mayor. Throughout the day, 475 parents, children and community members, representing more than 30 zip codes, made their way through theCentral Library’s grand foyer to learn about nearly 50 local schools. Many schools embraced the opportunity to engage a diverse group of families, bringing not only staff members to represent their schools but also current parents and students to have meaningful conversations with prospective families. Chatter and energy filled the library as families visited with schools, attended education-themed information sessions, such as “Kindergarten, Here We Come,” and found optimism in Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ speech about the future of education in KC.
The City School Fair was geared toward parents and children alike. Prospective high school students participated in a BINGO game, prompting them to ask questions of high school representatives, like “Does you school require community service?” Meanwhile, Jumpstart volunteers and Parents as Teachers interacted with some of the youngest participants and their parents in the library’s children’s section. For some families, the school fair was an ideal opportunity to complete applications and, for other parents pushing strollers, the fair was their very first exposure to the variety of schools in the KCPS boundaries. Despite the families’ different reasons for attending, we were pleased that more than 95 percent of the participants who completed the City School Fair survey shared that the event helped them better understand their families' school options. As one parent stated, “This was a one stop shop to learn about all of our options!”
And for those who missed the City School Fair, or are now more undecided than ever about which school is right for their children, our best advice is to visit the schools. Seeing students’ work on the walls, observing interactions between staff and students, and witnessing students’ engagement in their classes is one of the best ways to determine if a school is the right fit for your child. During the next several months, Show Me KC Schools is co-hosting a series of school tours for both parents and our greater community (we know that community members are also important “bridges” between our families and schools) to experience our local schools and deepen their understanding of Kansas City’s educational landscape. Please feel free to join us and reserve your seat on the bus here!