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.