Monday, February 23, 2009

The tours begin

Tomorrow is the first kindergarten tour I am doing. So many people I have talked to about this are totally unaware of how the process of public schooling in Seattle works, so here's a little break down: each child has a reference school, which is the school the live closest to, and resides in a cluster, which is a group of schools within the whole city. Clusters have around a dozen schools in them and are named "northwest" "north", etc etc. A child can go to any school within the city, though if the school isn't in your cluster, you have a lower chance of getting in than a child who is. Most people I know are touring a handful of schools in their cluster. Come registration, you put down your top three choices for schools and they try to get you in to your first, if not, your second, then lastly, your third. If you either don't choose any schools or none of them have space, your child gets sent to any school in your cluster (not necessarily your reference school, which makes me question the need for them?). We also have alternative schools here, which have a little bit different set of criteria for their system of getting in to them. The biggest one being, any child from anywhere in the city has just as much chance of getting in as any other, no matter how close you live.

So, that's a very broad overview of the system. It's taken me a loooong time to understand all of this!

The school I'm going to see tomorrow is one such alternative school that we so happen to currently live close to, within walking distance if we're feeling extra athletic that day! I have NO idea what to expect. How many parents will be there? What will the classrooms look like? How will the teachers be? Will it seem at all a good fit for Iris? Iris told me to ask if they have art, books and blocks. And she wants a nice teacher and to have nice classmates. And a playground. Sounds pretty good, no?

I have seriously been thinking of sending her to half day kindergarten, until I realized that half day is something like 2 3/4 hours. Even the kids at preschool go for longer days than that! So your choices are just under 3 hours or more like 6 hours, for a full day. I want a 4 hour day choice. Where is that? So now I'm back to thinking about full day. But full day. UGH. FULL DAY. Really? Should my freshly five year old be in school 30 hours a week? I know millions of children do full day kindergarten, or geez, full time preschool or even day care, without incident. My mom likes to remind me of this, that the families she has worked with in Head Start send the little kids to full day school, after school child-care, you name it, it's not an issue. But this is MY kid. We are lucky to live in a city that has soooo many schooling options. The kids don't just get bussed to the local school without question and stay there all day before being bussed back home. The options here are, as I like to say, a blessing and a curse. I wish it was as easy as sending her to the closest school, because that is the only option. I also wish we had all of the time and money in the world to research schools, shell out the big bucks for private school, and be fully entrenched in our children's education. Surely we will find the happy medium between those two worlds.

Anyways, I'm rambling now, but all this to say, my first tour is tomorrow. Wish me luck.


  1. can't wait to hear how it goes! i am jealous, as here in smalltownville our choices are slim (and not good).

    so what about siblings? if you wanted eloise to go to the same school as iris, is that a given or does she have to go through the same process and hope she gets in too?

  2. Blair, there is a whole list of criteria for deciding who has priority in enrolling and sibs is at the top of the list I believe. After they go down the whole list of who has priority for each reason then they open it up to a lottery system.

  3. Enjoy the tours! Ask lots of questions and bring snacks & entertainment if you're bringing either of the girls. We only toured 2 of the 8 schools in our town...I hope you find what you're looking for in a school quickly.

  4. best of luck! I probably ought to get GraceAnne's vax's up to date and take her to Kindergarten registration. OOPS. How pathetic that I have a backpack, lunchbox and pencils for her for kindergarten, but as of right now she can't even get it. We definitely don't have the choices you guys do. Kindergarten center or bust, baby! Enjoy the choices, damning though they be ;)


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