Now, to that interesting question. "Should you consider sending your child to a new school?" I am not being evasive, but my answer is a simple "It depends". It depends on several things.
Does the school offer what you require for your child's education?
New York City has a strong demand for places in private schools and a very low inventory of available places. Several Roman Catholic elementary and high schools have been forced to close in recent years. Demand for places is also driven by a robust mix of high income families with school age children and demanding parents who want the very best K-12 education for their children money can buy. Perhaps if you live in another city with a similar situation of high demand for private school places and few available seats, a new school will be an option to consider.
These days parents are more aware of the need for a solid preparation for an increasingly competitive world. Language, math and science skills are a necessity not a luxury. Examine very carefully the proposed curriculum. Ask about the teaching methods the school plans to use. Is developing your child's critical thinking part of the overall emphasis? It should be. Ask about the assessment strategies. Will grades be important? Will you have easy access to teachers to discuss progress and concerns?
Extracurricular activities and sports programs will take time to establish themselves in a new school. Make sure that the outlines of those programs are viable, practical and will benefit your child.
Are you willing to take a chance on a school which is untested?
Probably that's the biggest hurdle which you have to get over. That's where so much rests on the credibility of the principals. It is even more important to do your due diligence. Go to the 'recruiting' meetings. Ask questions. Listen carefully to the answers. If your antennae tell you that something is amiss, then go with that gut feeling. You may not know how to run a school. But you have enough experience in a whole lot of other things to determine what you are comfortable with and what you are uncomfortable with.
On the other hand, think of a new school like a condominimum project which is still on the drawing boards. The developers are telling you that the condos will be built and will have the amenities described in their prospectus. If the location and the amenities fit your needs, you will probably purchase a unit. Same thing with a new school. Listen to the sales pitch. Read all the fine print. Have your attorney review any documentation BEFORE you sign anything.
Review the school's admissions' standards. Where is the bar set? Can anyone get in?
How do you assess a new school?
I have always advocated visiting any school you have on your short list. But how can you do that with no school to visit? You can't. You will have to make your decision on faith and trust in the prinicpals backing the school and the team which has been assembled to run it. There will be no track record to review, no lists of schools which accepted their graduates, no teachers to meet and/or observe, no tours of the campus, and all the other 'normal' things you'd expect to review and see in an established school. Probably most importantly for me, there will be no culture to experience and savor. Established schools have that certain something which we intuitively call 'culture'. You can feel it when you set foot on campus and enter the buildings. A school's culture takes years to build as seemingly ordinary things become 'traditions'.
But, having said that, the advantage a brand new school has is the excitement of its leaders. They have bought into the vision. Indeed they probably are the vision of what the school can and will be. They are excited about what they plan to accomplish. And accomplish it they will. New ways of doing things, fresh approaches, cutting edge curricula and methods of teaching are at the top of their list.
My own personal feeling is that any new school is worth looking at. I was the vice-principal in a new private high school which Senator Elliston Rahming established in Nassau, Bahamas back in the 90's. My two sons attended that school. I most certainly didn't have the resources the school in Manhattan mentioned at the beginning of this article has. But I had the enthusiastic support of all the parents who want this school to succeed. Like The World School | Avenues we had set out to do things differently. They still used corporal punishment to discipline students back then in The Bahamas. But not at our school. That was huge. Different. Exciting. Yes, we had a few students 'test' the limits, but our 'new' idea of zero tolerance worked. No other school had a work study program, much like the Cristo del Rey schools have. We did. New ideas. New approaches. The excitement was palpable.
Sometimes, too, 'new' is not really 'new, is it? Rather, 'new' often means a return to basics. In education circling back and focusing on the core can't hurt. In fact it will lay the foundation for a life-time of learning if done properly. Isn't that what you want for your child?