So here's the deal
My husband, Ryan, and I have two kids—both currently in preschool. We need to find our daughter, Alice, a kindergarten for the 2008–09 school year. In two years we hope to send our son, Sam, to the same school. We're looking at both public and private schools. Our total income is low and we own a condo, which means hefty mortgage payments. We can't afford to pay full tuition for both children to attend a private school. I've done some research on financial aid at private schools, and our family would likely qualify for a small amount help (if we get into the school).
My husband and I decided that I will be in charge of the search. I'll tour 15 to 20 public schools and then rank my top seven. Ryan will visit the top three to offer feedback, and together we'll decide on—or fight over—our first choice.
As for private schools, I actually toured a few last year and I fell in love with one, Marin Country Day School. I will revisit MCDS and also go to Live Oak, Synergy, and San Francisco Day School. I hope to narrow down that list and apply to only two private schools so I can put a lot of energy into those two—i.e., attend all the functions and write thoughtful essays for the applications. I will apply for financial aid.
I may visit some parochial schools; I'm still figuring out which ones. I hope to tour a few public schools in Marin and the East Bay because I think it will help me evaluate the public schools in San Francisco.
San Francisco Public School strategy
San Francisco Unified School District consists of a whopping 80 kindergartens. Only a really neurotic parent—definitely not me—would visit them all. So how will I develop a list of schools to tour? I’m considering many factors:
Language immersion Habla Espanol? Ideally, I'd like a Spanish immersion program and I'm also considering Chinese. I figure this is something that's unique to the city. You can't get it in the suburbs and I believe in exposing my children to other cultures.
Size of student body I'm hoping for a small school—no more than three kindergarten classes. My daughter picked up one of my many inconvenient phobias—fear of large groups.
Location I'm going to start by looking at schools that are within 15 minutes of my home in upper Noe Valley—but I may branch out.
Start times Some schools start at 7:50 a.m. and others start at 9:30 a.m. Start times don’t matter to me; I'm an early riser. But if you like to sleep in, this is something to consider.
After-school program I work and so this is a definite must-have.
Test scores Honestly, I’m suspicious of public school with superhigh test scores—I figure it means either they're teaching to the test or the school lacks diversity. What I want is a school with solid test scores.
List of public schools I hope to tour
Alice Fong Yu
Leonard R. Flynn
Are there others schools I should add to this list? Let me know. Thanks!