Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Great School Debate

Over at CityMama's place, there's been some talk about public schools (and how much SFUSD sucks). Here, in our mad household, we've had similar discusssions about public schools versus private schools versus charter schools. Well, I've monologued at length about the pros and cons and Madhubby has pretended to listen.

The issue is upon us because next year Lizzie enters Middle School (or Junior High, if you are from the Southeastern part of the U.S.). Aside from the normal angst I have about my daughter moving into the world of high stakes cliques and text messaging, is the fear that we will choose the wrong school for her and ultimately doom her to three years of hell on earth.

Yes, believe it or not, parents can actively participate in and shape our childrens academic future in this fine state of ours. In Colorado, the public school system operates under a "school of choice" policy. Essentially, parents can send their kids to any school they so choose. So, the end result is usually that a lot of kids go to schools outside of their neighborhoods and the schools are - some would argue - racially polarized.

For example, the Science and Math magnet school that Lizzie attended last year is 98% caucasian. Although it is a magnet school - 33% of their students come to them through open enrollment - it is also a neighborhood school, so it does mirror the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood. That 33% that open enrolls? Well, that represents us parents who didn't mortgage our firstborns to live in the trendy and radically overpriced neighborhood. Why pay a premium for housing when there's open enrollment?

So, the issue for us is: do we send Lizzie to our neighborhood middle school where she will only know a few of the kids from her fifth grade class OR do we open enroll to the trendy neighborhood school where she will know a majority of the kids from preschool, kindergarten and fourth grade? The odds are in favor of the trendy neighborhood school because she will (a) know a lot more people & (b) have a more academically challenging curriculum (a good thing!). And, then there's the charter school that has multi-aged classrooms where kids are grouped by interests and ability rather than "traditional" grade mores. The little nerd in Lizzie is "super stoked" about that one.

But, I won't be able to walk her and her sister to school in the mornings since the middle school is ten miles down the turnpike. We'll be doing the carpool thing or the "frantically racing down the turnpike oh, shit, I missed my exit and now she's going to be late" thing. Is that fair to her? Is that fair to her sister who won't have the benefit of a relaxed mom who can hang out at the school for a bit because it's only five minutes from our house?

Open enrollment starts December 1st. What would you do? Hopefully, I will have this all sorted out by the end of November. Otherwise, the only schools that will still have openings will be those that require our first and second born child, two organs and an eye. will we choose?

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