We moved to a new area about a year ago. We relocated to a rural farming community of about 2,700 people. For the sake of this blog post, let’s call the town Smallville. In this community, there is one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school, and that encompasses the entire school district.
During our period of searching for homes, I also spent time researching schools in each town and area that we were considering moving to. Of all the cities we possibly could have chosen, Smallville was last on my list because the school rankings for the district were… well… not great. In fact, they were some of the lowest.
But lo and behold, we ended up in Smallville. With my oldest starting kindergarten just three months after moving there, I was in constant worry about what we should do for school. Should we keep her at Smallville Elementary or drive her to one of the surrounding town’s schools each day? Every passing day throughout the summer it was constantly on my mind.
We ultimately decided to keep her at Smallville Elementary at least for her first year of school, see how the year would go, and then move her to a new school for first grade if needed.
After her first full year of school, I was absolutely humbled. Sure, the school rankings on the Idaho State Department of Education website weren’t favorable for Smallville by any means. But do you know what the website doesn’t tell you?
It doesn’t tell you about the principal that is outside each and every morning and afternoon, no matter the weather, helping the teachers manage school drop-off and pick-up lines.
It doesn’t tell you about the kindergarten teachers and how every single one of them loves their students something fierce and will do anything to help the students succeed.
It doesn’t tell you about the first-grade teachers organizing a fundraiser all on their own to help raise money for a field trip.
The website doesn’t ever mention the school janitor that helps your daughter clean up her spilled lunch box off the floor of the cafeteria and then comforts her when she is in tears from embarrassment.
There aren’t stats for what a community bonding experience it is to attend a high school basketball game and have everyone come together for the evening, catch up, and rally together to cheer our athletes on to victory.
Never once did the website mentions how the superintendent, principal, and teacher would bend over backward when you make the difficult decision to pull your child from school temporarily and give distance learning a try.
It doesn’t tell you about the text your child’s teacher will send you in the middle of the school day, “I noticed your child was struggling with a specific math skill, I sent home some classroom manipulatives she can work with this week to help her.” – Classroom manipulatives that the teacher surely purchased herself.
It doesn’t tell you the important parts of the school.
The website can show statistics of test scores all day long, but what it can never show you is what an incredible community you gain in any one specific school, or in our case, one specific school district.
Going to school is based on academics, but that’s not our only goal at the end of their 12+ years in those hallways and classrooms. The goal is to raise good humans that know how to problem solve, interact with others, be a friend, have empathy, and more.
I’m grateful for our little Smallville school district and I’m even more grateful that we didn’t try to send our child away from such a community-driven school, regardless of what the test scores said.