Schools. How to pick a new school for your child?

Education & Training with Formerly RE/MAX 8 Manager

"How to Pick a New School for Your Child When You Move to Montgomery County, VA"

Advice from a Blacksburg, VA Student's Mom

Your new co-workers tell you that you their children are in the "best" area school.  Is the school that is best for their children, good for your child?  

This Realtor® who is the mother of a school aged child believes that parents should pick their school district before they buy their homes.  Many times a month while working with clients relocating to the New River Valley, I am asked questions about local schools such as, "Are Blacksburg and Radford Schools better than other area schools because of the involvement of parents who are educators at Virginia Tech or Radford University?" We are fortunate to benefit from participation with our local universities- Find out more about area resources at this website 

Most parents of school age children would like to make sure that their child's transition to a new school is a pleasant experience for their child.  Some parents consider moving to certain areas of the community because of their school districts. I have been a Realtor® since 1983.  For years, I have given advice to parents transitioning to our area.  However, when I moved my child from Roanoke County Schools to the Montgomery County School System, (MCPS), in the New River Valley, my experience became personal, and emotional.  I developed an entirely new understanding of the situation.   

Brandon's Story

I have worked in the New River Valley for approximately twelve years.  Until five years ago, I commuted.  When my husband and I separated, I decided that I could eliminate the 45 minute one-way commute to Roanoke each day. Spending the extra one and half hours per day with my son seemed reason enough for me to move to Blacksburg.  I was not prepared for the impact that moving would have on my son. Changing schools was especially upsetting for him. 

I was wrong about his transition.  Brandon who had been very socially adept became immediately withdrawn at his new school even though I did everything that most real estate agents and relocation counselors would recommend to parents.  

What about all of the class work and certifications that I had in relocation counseling? Were the experts teaching relocation wrong?  Most of the information is very useful but now I incorporate suggestions that I have learned from my own experience as a mother.  I recommend....


11 Steps To Consider When Selecting A New School From Brandon's Mom


Step 1:  Before you make any decisions, talk to our child or children about the move. Ask them what they like about their old school.  Then, ask them what they would change about their old school.  Children who are involved in the total moving experience are happier.  Listen and respond to their concerns.  Keep them involved in the process.


Step 2:  Talk to professional guidance counselors and therapists if you perceive that your family needs guidance.  When your family is involved in the crisis, sometimes you need help from a professional who does not have an emotional stake in the situation. 


Step 3:  Arrange a tour of area schools and schedule meetings with the principals and guidance counselors at schools that your child may attend.  Try to arrange the meeting while school is in session because you can learn a lot from the atmosphere at the school.  Are the children at the school generally happy and upbeat?  How many students are in the classrooms?   Does the guidance counselor have recommendations to help your child transition? Are there any school activities that you child can attend before the move such as a Spring Fair or Fall Festival? These activities are posted on many of the school's websites-I have links posted at the end of this blog.


Step 4:  Finding a school that best fits your child's needs is paramount to a successful move so talk to parents who have transitioned and parents who are long time area residents. Attend a PTA or PTO meeting too. In Blacksburg, we have a "Newcomers' Club" where you can receive helpful information too, or write to Membership Chair, Blacksburg Newcomers' Club, PO Box 11463, Blacksburg, VA 24062. 


Step 5:  Many schools have different approaches to education & different classroom models.  Check out the approach used in the school.  For instance, my son's new school had an open classroom with team teaching. Some children that are easily distracted by noise may experience difficulty concentrating in an open classroom environment. Harding Elementary has an open classroom environment


Step 6:  Check out the security measures at your potential school.  I noticed that one of the elementary schools had a playground that bordered a neighborhood and park. The playground was not fenced.  Also, the principal's office was not located by the front access to the school.  Is a newer school such as Kipps Elementary, Falling Branch Elementary or Auburn Elementary better?                           


Step 7:  What about test scores?  Look at this website  called Virginia School Report Card.  How do special programs affect scoring?  Most school systems have websites with SOL scores and reports regarding state tests and scoring which the principals at Brandon's school felt were good indicators of academic tracking; however, you still need to ask questions.  For instance at my son's current school which is Blacksburg Middle School, his math course is part of a university grant program that is unique. 


Step 8:  Does the local day care provide after school transportation?  Is there after school care offered such as our area "Adventure Clubs?"  


Step 9:  What is the policy of the school regarding parental involvement?  Are parents encouraged to help in classrooms? At Margaret Beeks Elementary, , we were often greeted in the mornings by a student musician. The school had numerous social activities that involved students.  Each school has an atmosphere that is unique!  


Step 10:  Size does matter!  Most parents think that smaller classrooms are better.  The important question to ask when you are relocating is "how easy will it be for my child to assimilate into a new school environment?"  The children in my son's new school which had only around 200 students attending grades K-5 had known each other since kindergarten.  They had formed strong friendships and more importantly they were not accustomed to welcoming a lot of new students into their school.  I later transferred Brandon to a larger school where new children were frequently entering the social mix.  In our case, larger was better.


Step 11Special needs!  Not all school systems are inclusive. Several of my friends have asked me to tell parents that Montgomery County Public School System is inclusive.   If you have a child with special needs, it is extremely important to know what resources are available, Desi Sowers, an agent in my office is a great resource, or 540-320-1328. 


Some parents ask me about private education too.  When you move to a new area, you will have a lot to learn.  I am confident that we have the resources to help you make the right decisions for your child.


Here are some helpful area links:


Montgomery County Public Schools 

Craig County Public Schools           

Floyd County Public Schools          

Giles County Public Schools                  

Pulaski County Schools                 

Radford City Schools                    

Top Highschool Rankings may be view at ...                                       

Virginia Tech                                

Radford University                        


More information about other area schools including colleges, universities and private schools is available at or if you have questions, send me an email at or call me at 866-503-0156 - you will be talking to Brandon's mom and a Realtor®. 


Diana Blair

Broker and Manager

Prudential Radford & Associates, Realtors®

318 North Main Street

Blacksburg, VA  24060

Office:  540-552-4201


Licensed in Virginia    

Comments (2)


Hi Diana,

I think this is a great article.  When we moved from Blacksburg to St. Louis two years ago we did the things you mentioned in your blog.  I think this really helped the transition for our 3 children.  Our oldest son still felt like an outsider at times, but I think he still made a few friends that he still keeps in touch with even though he changed schools at the end of the year.  I think our kids had more trouble adjusting to a new teacher or teachers in the middle of the year than they did adjusting to the new school and new surroundings.  I  felt the teachers didn't want to take the extra time to get our kids 'up to speed' with what the other students had been already accustomed to all year since there were only 8 weeks left in the school year. 

Thanks for sending me the link!!


Oct 21, 2008 08:06 AM
Diana Blair
Formerly RE/MAX 8 Manager - Blacksburg, VA

Dale!  Good to hear from you!  We hope that all is well in the St. Louis.  I appreciate  your  comments!  Probably, one of the most difficult situations when you move is to transition your children into a new school system. When my father was in the service, I remember that I had not learned fractions in the 3rd grade yet.  The class that I transferred to been working with fractions for a week.  I always hated to be behind the learning curve. I remember when your children moved here.  You moved them several times until you placed them at Beeks. 

Oct 21, 2008 08:37 AM