Tonight, I had dinner with an old friend in Rockridge. Tanya lives in San Ramon, so we picked a half-way point.
Tanya and I met in seventh grade French class. We instantly bonded because she had a crush on my younger brother's best friend's older brother (I know it's complicated). Over the years our lives have been parallel in many ways: We were roommates our freshman year in college, married our husbands within two weeks of each other, and gave birth to our first children within two weeks of each other—which means we're now both starting to get ready for kindergarten. But enrolling for kindergarten in San Ramon is quite different than in San Francisco—and so as we chowed down on burritos, it was interesting to compare notes.
In January, Tanya will be picking up her kindergarten packet at the school where her son will be attending—yes, she already knows where Tyson is going to school and she has known ever since they moved into their house about one year ago. Like in most suburbs, kids in San Ramon go to their neighborhood school. I have to admit that I was feeling envious when she told me they'll soon even know which teacher Tyson will have next fall. I feel so far away from that!
But what really surprised me was when Tanya started to tell me about all the bells and whistles at her son's school. "There's a full-time P.E. teacher," she told me. "The kids get P.E. twice a week. At most public elementary schools, the classroom teacher does P.E. with their own students." Okay, wait a minute: Nearly every school I toured in San Francisco had a full-time P.E. teacher offering class once or twice a week. Or there's a Sports 4 Kids program. As my friend went on and on, I began to realize that the public schools in San Francisco have most of the same special extras as the schools in San Ramon. I was surprised. And when I told Tanya that the schools in SF also have P.E. programs, she seemed surprised.
Why do many people assume the urban public schools have less to offer than suburban ones?
Yes, in the suburbs you can typically walk to school, which seems nice, though I wonder how many people actually do that. And the test scores are higher, though we all know why that's the case.
You hear that many people leave the city for the suburbs because of the schools—but I'm beginning to wonder why. If you want a big house, that might be a reason to move to the suburbs. Or maybe you're seeking ample street parking. Or maybe you're hoping to settle in one of those beautiful suburbs nestled against a verdant mountain or perched above the sea. But leaving SF just because of the schools? I'm not sure that's a strong reason. (Though who knows how I'll feel when I don't get one of the seven schools I select.)