Why Back to School is Better in the NYC Suburbs

Sep 1, 2019

From the bus ride to the sense of community, there’s nothing better than heading back to school in the suburbs.

While there are, no doubt, some conveniences that come with sending your kids to school in the city—you can choose from, literally, thousands of unique schools, programs and curriculums all within a quick subway ride, for starters—the reality is the ‘burbs were born for back to school season. Your first fall in suburbia will no doubt remind you why it’s better here, especially when it’s time to hit the books. For starters…

#1. There’s no painful application and waiting process

In the city, even if you want your kid to go to the school located on your block, there’s a good chance you’ll have to complete some sort of application or attendance request—then you’ll have to hold your breath until preK, kindergarten, middle school or high school assignments are announced.

“My kindergartener got placed in a program in Jamaica, Queens,” said lawyer and mom of two, Nicole. “I live in Forest Hills. My oldest goes to middle school in Long Island City. Tell me how this morning drop off is going to go?”

Beyond that, many families choose a neighborhood based on schools, only to find out so many families did the same—and now there’s a lottery for admission. It’s not uncommon for a sought-after public school to have 100 to 200 kids on a preK or kindergarten waitlist—kids who are zoned for the school and, otherwise, should be a shoo-in.

Not so in suburbia. Move to the neighborhood, swing by the local school office or registrar, bring your deed and some other identifying documents and your kids are IN. Move mid-year? No problem—it’s the same process. School getting a little crowded? They’ll sooner tap more teachers or expand the building before there’s any sort of city-style lottery.

#2. There’s a true sense of COMMUNITY—and that counts

Because kids are all hyper-local, there’s a real sense of community that permeates local schools. Those kids down the block? The family you met at the park? The girls playing soccer across the street? They’ll likely be lining the same hallways come fall—and, maybe, being part of your bus or walk-to-school crew come September.

Given the local-ness of it all, you and your kids will make friends fast, expanding your tribe and helping you get more and more immersed in both community and school activities. Bonus!

#3. You’ll always get the inside scoop…

In the city, kids go to tons of different schools—you may not know anyone who’s sent kids to your children’s school, at least not at first. While we’re all for adventure and charting your own course, there’s something comforting about having a band of friends and neighbors who went before you—moms and dads who can give you the real scoop on the teachers, administrators, the sports teams and the aftercare scene, for starters. Curious about a teacher? Ask at the bus stop. Want to know what “half-day” means—and can’t find it anywhere? Text your neighbor. Not sure what parents really wear to 5th grade graduation? Ask that family on the cul-de-sac—their kids are in middle school, but they no doubt remember the grad scene.

#4. One word: BUS.

Speaking of the bus stop, in the suburbs you’ll likely be a quick walk or bike ride to school or you’ll get the pleasure of the big yellow school bus rolling up to your corner every single day.

There’s, truly, nothing better. The kids love it and you won’t have to suffer through the chaos of morning drop off—or of trying to navigate the subway, the crosstown bus or the latest Uber surge with backpacks, lunch boxes, science projects and violin cases in-hand. Just scoot to the corner, wave goodbye and go back to your day, without thinking twice about traffic, crammed commuter cars or walking 20 blocks in a total downpour.

Christine, a mom of four in Sea Cliff, gets it. “I don’t even get dressed,” she admits. “I grab my kids, grab my coffee and we wait for the bus—two buses, actually, since I have two going to middle school and two going to elementary school. In the city, we’d be running through the subway station every morning, without fail! We forgot this, we left that on the train, the little ones couldn’t carry everything…it was chaos, to say the least.”

#5. No need to Uber to back to school night

‘Tis the season for back to school night, early-on parent/teacher conferences, kick-off PTO and seemingly endless evening activities surrounding your kids’ education.

“We lived in Brooklyn until last year,” art teacher and Rye Neck mom of three Madeline says. “And my kids went to three different schools—in three different parts of Brooklyn. Getting to back to school night was almost impossible. Two were on the same night, and my husband and I had to divide and conquer. Only one was a quick ride to and from our apartment—the others meant evening Ubers and paying the sitter.”

Now, though, everyone is in-sync—and in the same school. “The school is ½-mile from our house,” she says. “Everyone goes to the same place, we have one back to school night and we can be back in, literally, one minute. It’s so much easier and less stressful.”

There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.

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