Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ch-ch-choices

This week, I will fill out our school choice form. As I explained in my earlier post on school choice, we're interested in having our daughters learn a foreign language, and are therefore considering magnet schools with language programs as well as our neighborhood school.

When I last wrote, we had visited a Spanish immersion magnet two blocks from our house (that we have at best a 50% chance of getting a spot at) and a Spanish enrichment magnet that is in a different neighborhood, but not horribly out of the way for our daily commutes.

This week, we visited two more schools- a Chinese immersion magnet in a different neighborhood that is a bit out of our way, and our neighborhood school (i.e., the school we'll have a spot at if we can't get into any of the magnets).

And I'm happy to say, we now have a plan.

We were really impressed with the Chinese magnet. They have a great program, and a really dynamic, enthusiastic principal who has done a great job of finding creative ways to get resources for his school despite the grim budget environment. They are also slated to move to a new location in the next couple of years- and all three of the possible locations work well for us. Really, the only downside of that school would be that it has a very early start time. It starts at 7:30, due to bus schedule constraints. That gave us pause- but then we realized that since our daughter has lower than average sleep needs and the early start would mean that we wouldn't have to worry about traffic, we'd only have to move her bedtime back by an hour, at most. Her lights currently go out at 9, and she is up before 7 every day. If we move lights out back to 8, she'd probably be up before 6, and we could easily make it out of the house by 7, which would give us plenty of time to get to school on time. We're not thrilled about the change, but we think the program would be worth it.

Still, we loved the Spanish immersion magnet's program, too, and they have a more civilized start time two blocks from our house. So that program will be our first choice, and the Chinese magnet will be our second choice. Given the fact that last year they had twice as many applicants as they had slots... this probably means that all the mental energy we used considering the impact of that 7:30 start time was completely wasted. Our chances of getting in as a second choice are exceedingly slim. There is no harm in trying, though.

The only questions left were whether or not we'd put the Spanish enrichment program as our third choice, and whether or not we'd consider a private school.

Those questions were answered when we visited our neighborhood school. It is a good school. We liked the principal's attitude and approach, and we were impressed by what we saw in the kindergarten classes. They do not currently have any language offerings at all, not even after school. However, when we asked the principal if we could set one up, she was very positive about that possibility. At first, she hedged, saying that while she thought learning a foreign language was important, given the budget cuts, she didn't think they'd have the budget. But then we said that we intended to fund the class ourselves... and she was thrilled with our idea. Overjoyed, in fact. I suspect that we'd get at least a few other interested kids, so we would not end up paying for the entire class. Even if we did have to pay for the whole thing, though, my research indicates that it would be cheaper than private school. A LOT cheaper.

We had also asked a friend whose kids attend the local private school that does a French immersion program how much it cost. She said it currently costs $11,000, and has been going up at 1-2% each year. Now, $11,000 is a lot better than the $23,000 the "premier" private school in our area costs. But setting up an after school Spanish class would cost a fraction of that.


An after school Spanish class would also provide as much (if not more!) Spanish instruction as what is offered by the Spanish enrichment magnet we visited. From what we could tell, if we wanted into the Spanish enrichment program, we would probably get in. However, if we wrote it as our third choice, were offered a spot in it, and accepted that, we would be out of the running for any spots that opened up at our first two choices (the immersion magnets) due to parents changing their minds. We would also be out of the running if we turned down a spot at our third choice school.

We've decided that it isn't worth taking that risk. The advice we received was to only write choices on our form that we like as much as the first choice- because once you are offered a choice, you are done, regardless of whether or not you accept it. Your only options are to accept that choice or go to your neighborhood school.

And so, we have a plan. We will write the Spanish and Chinese immersion magnets as our first two choices. If we don't get one of those choices, we'll go to our neighborhood school and set up an after school Spanish class, while also continuing our weekend Chinese lessons as long as Pumpkin is interested in them.

It feels great to have this sorted out. Now, we just have to wait and see how lucky we get.

15 comments:

  1. Yay! Good luck!

    We're in a tense month with our school... waiting to see if they have a coherent plan in place for next year. If not, then we don't give them a sizable donation and we tour the K-3 Montessori, possibly reserving a slot for fall. Which, incidentally, just opened up "after school" care so it's suddenly more attractive to working parents. (The school was really geared towards kids of SAHM before, and I think their market is getting cut into by the new Core K-8, which also caters to the SAHM market.)

    The problem with Montessori is it's only K-3 and DC would probably have to jump through a lot more hoops to stay grade-skipped in public than he would if he can just make it through first grade at his current school.

    Maybe we should just move to California.

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  2. paola1:35 AM

    Glad to hear you have settled on something. It is so incredibly stressful when you have so much choice. If we had continued to live in Italy our job would have been so easy: we would have sent Noah to the very mediocre primary school his dad went to. And we would have been happy with this choice, seeing the only other option was a private Catholic school 20 minutes away.

    Instead we immigrated. We got our 3rd choice but it may have well been our last choice for what it mattered. It had poor OFSTED results, was far from home, but it did take both children. You have to always find a positive slant on things. Then at Christmas BOTH kids got accepted by our first choice, 400 m up the road. excellent OFSTED resilts. We were over the moon. Stress, for the moment gone. Phwew!

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  3. Awesome plan! :)

    Trying to figure out what to do with Tate next year. One more year of pre-k and then do it all over again deciding on kindergarten. Ahhhh.

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  4. fingers crossed. I think I'm going the hire an advocate route since we don't have a suitable private option. Or at least that is what I feel today

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  5. Wow, that's great that you have so many schools you are excited about to choose from. I hope that you get into your first choice!

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  6. ... and it looks like the first grade teacher our son loves so much is leaving our private school... also the budget they've put together includes a good portion of magical thinking. On top of substantial tuition increases that may prove some unpleasant economic concepts about people substituting away towards cheaper goods.

    Just emailed the K-3 Montessori to see if we can set up a tour next week (since nobody answered the phone).

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  7. so good to have a plan! I have a few friends going through this process right now.

    good luck! *I* totally want to go to Spanish immersion, myself. ;)

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  8. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Nice plan, sounds good!

    We pulled our sensitive son mid-year from public school and are paying a lot for a private Quaker school. I'm underwhelmed w/one teacher, who says sneaky negative things to the class wrapped in happy joy joy speak. I discovered she's having a horribly stressful time outside of school, which gives me a little perspective, but he would have her again next year as well. And waiting to see if we get offered & want to sign re-enrollment contract for next year when we have no back up plan as this was the school w/"most nurturing" rep.

    I hadn't anticipated school stuff being so hard, but then I hadn't anticipated that parenting itself would kick my a$$ so hard.

    Lisa F.

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  9. ... and the board at our private school just asked if DH could join and replace the treasurer, at least on an interim basis. But... his tenure packet is due in MARCH. And his wife is PREGNANT. And neither of us knows the first thing about accounting.

    Meanwhile still waiting to hear back from the K-3 Montessori to set up a tour... and we emailed to ask the 1st grade teacher where she's planning on being next year.

    This is hard!

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  10. @nicoleandmaggie- oh, that sucks. I'm so sorry that your school seems to be melting down! I hope the Montessori works out for you. Or that something else good works out.

    @Lisa F- I KNOW. A lot of this parenting stuff is so much harder than I thought it would be. I hope your school situation improves.

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  11. Great news! Sounds like you've come up with an excellent plan. Phooey on your friend who made you feel like you should have started the process sooner. ;)

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  12. Glad to hear you have settled on a list you are happy with. Best wishes for the placement!

    I'm a little bit jealous of that fact that you even have a choice. Around here, it's the public school for your neighborhood, or one of the private schools. The only way to control which public school is either get a special ed/disability waiver or work for a school (or choose childcare) in a different attendance zone.

    Doesn't really matter since there are no magnets or charters anywhere. Wide variation between the quality of schools, but no way to pick and choose. All the elementary schools had Spanish up until a couple years ago, but it was only once a week. Then, we had to cut something and it was all gone.

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  13. The milliner12:13 PM

    What a brilliant idea to fund the extra language class at your neighborhood school (even if ultimately that didn't end up being one of your choices).

    I can imagine that having the decision made is a big stress reliever. Yay!

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  14. @The VA Hills- I know, I can't quite decide if this school choice thing is overall good or bad for people and schools! On one hand, it is nice to have options (even if we aren't guaranteed to get what we want). On the other hand... what a time sink!

    @the milliner- paying for the Spanish class at our neighborhood school is still very much in the running for possible outcomes! It probably wasn't clear from my post- we wrote the immersion programs in as our top two choices in on the form, but we are by no means guaranteed we'll get in to one. If we don't, we'll go to our neighborhood school and pay for a Spanish program after school.

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  15. @Cloud- I can see how it could be too much of a good thing sometimes. It certainly took a lot of thought, discussion, etc. They all sound like good options, and I hate having to choose between too many good options. (Maybe it's a good thing I don't have to?)

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