New backpacks, school supplies, and the sound of school buses in the morning. Back to school is an exciting time but what if you are new to the area? How can you get ready when everything is still so new?

Here are 5 things to think about when getting ready for back to school in a new city.

1. What school will they go to?

Make sure you know what schools your kids will be going to before you choose a new home. Talk to your real estate agent, to a School Liason Officer, or read reviews from other military families in your future neighborhood so you know your options. If you are living on base, there is not always a base school and you may get to choose between two local districts. If you live off base, your child’s school may not automatically be the one that is closest on the map. Doing research in advance will save you the shock and the surprise of not being able to send them where you originally hoped. When we first moved to our rental house in Tennessee, I went to the school down the street to register my son. Only, when I got there, they told me we were not zoned for that school. Zoning in this city doesn’t always make the most logical sense.

2. How will they get there?

Will your kids walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or will you have to drive them? How they get to school will be based on how far away you are, what you feel comfortable with, and what is available to you in your area. Look at your options and decide what is best for you and your kids. Find out how most of the kids arrive at the classroom and go from there. Call the bus company to find out whether a school bus stops in your neighborhood, and what time your child would have to wake up to ride the bus. If possible, talk to other parents in the neighborhood to see what methods they use, and why. 

3. Do other kids in the neighborhood go there?

Find out which kids in the neighborhood go to your child’s school. Getting to know them can be a good idea. If your kids will walk to school, they can walk together. Since you are new to the area, knowing a few other kids who attend the same school can be a good way to bridge the gap. In other cases, you and your kids will be able to meet people because school is starting. Be friendly at the bus stop, say hi to other parents if you see them in the carpool lane, and get out there and be known. That will make starting in a new classroom easier for everyone.

4. Can you volunteer in the classroom?

Some schools are more open to volunteers than others. During COVID, most schools didn’t allow parents inside the building. Now that schools are re-opening, they are looking for volunteers again. Find out what you can do and then talk with the teacher about what they need help with. Volunteering at your child’s classroom can help you get to know the school, as well as the people in your community. It will also give you a unique opportunity to see what your child is learning, and which skills they struggle with. But if you want to volunteer, be prepared for some paperwork first. At my son’s school, you have to take volunteer training to do anything. This even includes field trips.

5. What times do classes start and end?

Make sure you find out when the morning bell rings and when school gets out. If you have children in more than one school, make sure you know what time they have to be dropped off and picked up. Try to talk to other parents about expected wait times in the pick-up lines or traffic congestion in the morning. Putting the schedules up on the wall can be a good idea for everyone in the family. The schedule could be very different from the last school your kids attended!

If you are moving during the summer, look for any special beginning of the year schedules. Some states begin the year much earlier than others! In some places, different ages and buildings roll into the school year on different days. Where we live, kindergartners only attend one day in the first week and then don’t start full time until later. 

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Julie Provost is a freelance blogger with over 20,000 page views a month on her blog Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life. She enjoys life in Tennessee with her husband, a National Guard soldier, and their three boys. Julie enjoys blogging, reading, photography and a good cup of coffee.