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Many options but few good choices

Submitted by on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 No Comment

school_choiceI’m sitting at my desk with 15 browser tabs open and wondering why my Internet connection is creaking.

The 15 tabs is standard operating procedure. What’s different, though, is the pages they’re connected to: Four school districts, three attendance boundary maps, two newspapers, three real estate sites, California’s school rankings site and greatschools.net, which slices and dices the data better than the state site.

I wish I had a computer powerful enough to slice and dice and answer for me, because it’s an impossible problem: Getting this whole dog and pony show moved before school starts – which is anytime between Aug. 3 and Sept. 3 – without dropping a bomb on either Dad or Big Guy.

I’m laughing as I remember the big sigh of relief I drew a year ago, after we’d settled on our neighborhood school. “Thank heaven that’s over with for seven years,” I thought at the time.

Here we go again. Except this time I don’t even know where our neighborhood will be.

I’d prefer to live on post, but Dad doesn’t want to. We probably wouldn’t be able to get settled on post before school starts – there’s a waiting list for housing – but at least we’d know that eventually the guys would be in a good school close to home and close to work for Dad.

Beyond that, things get hairy.

There are three communities within “commutable” distance, but none is a desirable drive. At least, it wouldn’t be for me. The trips range from an hour and a half to two hours and five minutes.

Dad says he’s OK with any of them, but I’m wondering how he’ll feel over the long haul. And I really don’t want to run this drill again next year.

Then we get to the Big Guy factor. His current school is pretty dang good. Not outstanding, but really, really good – test scores trail only the magnet school in the district, and they’re above the county and state averages. The principal is as dynamic a leader as I’ve run into in education in a long time.

We lucked into that school. It was nothing more than a field full of waist-high weeds and a gleam in an architect’s eye when we moved to this neighborhood a decade ago. For that matter, the neighborhood wasn’t even much of a neighborhood back then, surrounded by orchards on one side and empty fields on another.

City A, the closest to post, has one school that’s almost as good as the school Big Guy goes to now. That’s based solely on test scores. Kind of ironic that a person with such total disdain for No Child Left Behind and bubble tests is partly at their mercy in deciding her child’s education future. Getting into the school would depend on finding somewhere to live in its attendance area – it’s a pretty surgical strike.

City B has a lot of good schools. Some are even outstanding. Problem is, they’re all magnets – the type of schools that parents camp out  at in order to win their children slots. Much of what’s left is scary bad – one has the lowest scores in the region.

What are the chances of a transfer student who might not land until August getting a magnet slot? I asked an assistant superintendent point blank. She didn’t answer.

City C has two outstanding schools and a couple more that are comparable to where Big Guys is now. They’re neighborhood schools, but with several options the strike wouldn’t have to be as surgical as it would with City A. Problem is, City C goes back to class Aug. 3. The timing might be impossible.

Yes, I think too much and I wish I hadn’t even started thinking about this. I wish I’d just done what my parents did when we were kids, plucking us from one district and plopping us into another with no never-mind as to quality.

Yes, I realize that military kids move all over the world and always manage to adjust. No, I don’t expect a decision about where Big Guy attends first grade to ultimately decide whether he gets into Harvard. If he even wants to go to Harvard.

Neither do I demand or even expect that the guys go to the “best” school. I’d just like for them to be in one that isn’t awful.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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