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Parents search for school that makes the grade

On a spreadsheet, Kevin and Lynda Morrill have created rows of options for their children's elementary education. Cost. Hours. Ratio. Art. Location. Curriculum. Music.

Their 5-year-old daughter, Nicole, will start kindergarten in the fall. Although their 2-year-old son, Matthew, is a few years behind, this search is for him, too. The kids are enrolled in preschool at Honeywell, where Kevin Morrill works. But they can't stay there forever.

So the Morrills, both 36, began an intensive search in August. They made a list of schools they were interested in and scheduled tours. Sometimes, they went to open houses and talked to other parents. They downloaded test scores from the Internet and studied the glossy brochures from private schools. And they interviewed administrators about their vision for the school.

During visits to the schools, which they have narrowed to 10, they took notes and filled in the spreadsheet for an at-a-glance comparison. The stack of information, including newspaper articles, still is growing.

"We are very pleased that there are some very good choices," said Lynda Morrill. "We have no bias." They are considering public and private schools, religious and non-religious.

They still are deciding which attributes are most important: proximity, language, social environment, religion, faculty, etc.

Each school has its strong points, said Kevin Morrill, but one school's strength may not be appropriate for their children.

Parents have to adjust their priorities according to the child's personality, ability and interests. Sure, there are schools that give students e-mail addresses by the third grade and schools that have impressive curricula, but is that best for your child?

The Morrills want a school where their children will "learn how to learn and learn how to think," Lynda Morrill said.

And they also want to be active parents in their children's school.

"We want a school where there is a lot of involvement," she said.