1. Education

Private School Handbooks

Understanding How Your School Works


Saint Mary's School, Raleigh, North Carolina

Saint Mary's School, Raleigh, North Carolina

Photo © Robert Kennedy
When you send your child to private school, you sign a contract clearly spelling out your obligations and the school's obligations. That contract is a binding legal document. Unfortunately it is one of those documents with pages of fine print that you file carefully in a safe place. That's where the handbook comes in. The handbook covers the day to day rules, policies and procedures which you and your child must adhere to while part of the school community.

Most handbooks are online at the school's website. Depending on the school access may be password protected and limited to current parents and other members of the school community. Many schools publish their handbooks without password protection. They are not concerned about security. They want anybody to see their policies and procedures. Expectations are better set if that important information is out there in full view. Most private school handbooks are in PDF format. It is extremely difficult to alter PDF files. They are easy to print out if a hard copy is necessary.

Handbooks serve several purposes. They explain rules and regulations, policies and procedures. They also detail the consequences for not adhering to those policies and procedures. They outline expectations the school has of students and parents. For example, the DePaul School handbook sets out a homework policy so that everybody knows when and how much homework is assigned.

Handbooks Document Information

Every organization has its policies and procedures. These permit the day to day activities of the organization to proceed smoothly. Nowhere is this more important than in a school where the care of young people, legal minors as a rule, is one of the primary purposes of the institution. That's why you will see many pages in school handbooks devoted to lists of people to contact. Whether you need to speak to a dean or a residence supervisor, you will have all that important information at your fingertips in your handbook. Tip: program important numbers into your cellphones.

Handbooks Explain Policies and Procedures

A good school handbook explains policies. For example, if the school issues report cards 3 times a year, the handbook will stipulate when and how the report cards are issued.

Boarding schools list their weekend policies in their handbooks. If your daughter wants to take a weekend away from school, you will need to communicate your permission to the school. Your daughter cannot decide that she wants to spend the weekend in Boston without your knowing.

One of the reasons schools have strict, well-enforced policies and procedures is because they take their role of surrogate parent very seriously. The safety of your child comes first at school.

Handbooks Answer Questions

Handbooks typically answer the kinds of questions parents have pretty thoroughly. Exeter's Handbook covers just about every question a parent could have. That's very reassuring when you have left your daughter at boarding school for the first time. It's comforting to know that the school has probably thought of everything.

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