Friday, August 28, 2009

Are you faced with a big decision?

I have heard from a few parents who got calls from SFUSD in the past few days. These parents are faced with big decisions. Should I stay at the school where my child attended school the past five days or should I switch him to my first-choice school where a spot just opened up? Should I pull my child out of the private school to go to that public school I never thought I'd get into?

Please feel free to share your dilemmas. A lot of readers have already been faced with these situations and had to make similar decisions last year, so throw out your questions and I'm sure someone will respond.


  1. Yesterday we got into Alvarado from the waitpool! Our son had attended our Round 2 choice for the first week of Kindergarten. He enjoyed the school, his teacher, and the aftercare... but it was far from our home and difficult for us to make the 7:50 start. For us it was a no-brainer to switch to Alvarado, which is 1/2 mile from our home, and have his new friends be more likely to be kids from the neighborhood that he'd be able to get together with outside of school.

    When I picked him up on Friday I told him that this was his last day there and on Monday he'd be going to a new Kindergarten - he got to say goodbye to his teacher, give her a hug, and pickup some of his work from the classroom. He's excited for his new school, which he knows from the neighborhood.

    Even if we thought that he would have trouble transitioning, we wouldn't have hesitated to switch. In the long run the new school will be better for him, and better/easier for us. The longterm benefit dwarfs any possible shortterm disruption or emotions.

    We faced a similar, riskier decision earlier in the summer with private school. We were 0/7 in Round 1, and had gotten our round 2 pick though we knew it would be hard to make the school. Then we got accepted off the waitlist for the only private that we had applied to. Commit to the private, which once we crunched the numbers we knew we couldn't really afford, or stick with a public we weren't crazy about and hold out hope for the waitlist? It was very difficult to say "no" to the beautiful private school, but in the end it turned out perfectly.

    So, I think the public choice is easy - if you get your waitpool you already know that you prefer it over your current assignment. The private decision was harder because of the financial implications, and was a literal gamble to give it up and hope that the public option would work out.

    Even if we thought that he'd h

  2. 4 of my close parent/school friends switched schools last year (K) within the first month of school. In each case the kid adjusted very well, almost immediately. I agree it isn't an ideal way to begin Elementary School, but I'd get my child into the right school for you (and them) in K, so that you don't have to do the switch when they are older.

  3. Just found out that there are kinder openings in Rosa Parks JBBP and GE. Apprently several registered families went private or got their public school waitlist. There are 2 GE kinder classes and 3 JBBP kinder classes (the new JBBP K teacher is from Clarendon).

    To check out the school, contact the office at 415. 749. 3519.

  4. Last year, I left a great private school for public because from the time of my daughter's acceptance (March) to the time of the school year (September) I got laid off from my job, went into a financial tailspin, and got plain scared to death by the new economic downturn. I lost almost 15 years of savings in the market, I had to sell my car, I took out credit card advances, put my house on the market, and went on antidepressants. I figured I'd become a renter again and used the leftover from the house to pay tuition or something till I figured out what to do.

    Then in late October, I got the call that my name had popped up on the waitlist of a pretty good school. Ranked 11th in scores, located across town, but on a good bus line. I could not say no. I pulled out of private, and enrolled in public. Frankly, I just wanted to stop the bleeding for the year before I moved out of the city. I knew it was inevitable.

    As it happens, the transition during kindergarten was easy, and the public school was better. Simply put. It was better! It was terrific! What a shock for me. I mean, the class size was smaller, the teacher was more accomplished, the room brighter and more exciting, and the students were more diverse. It was a big "win" all around.

    I took my house of the market.

    It took me until this year to rebuild my income, pay down some of the credit card debt, and I am still driving a 22 year old diesel wagon I bought for $3,000. I often think about how absolutely s.o.l. I would have been, had I not switched to public school. So I have two kids. I added it up. By staying in a great public school until 5th grade, I am saving well over $240,000.

    Yes, this post is about money. But it also about what you think you're getting that you may not be. And the craziness we put ourselves through to afford private school. I learned a lesson, and as they say, there is no voice louder than the voice of the converted.

    The public schools are great. I think you'd have to have money to burn to think it's worth it to spend all that dough the first five or six years of school.

    High school? Middle school? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. But elementary school? This is a no brainer.

    Now that I'm working again, and am staying in public school, I can afford to have basic stupid things in life, like a city life. We can save for college or the next economic disaster, I can spend a little on a good babysitter to help relieve my load, I am able to shop at organic groceries and feed the kids well, I can treat the kids to sushi for example, or we can go on a family vacation, the kids can dress in new clothes instead of second hand stores, I can maybe go to Europe every other year, and most importantly, I can take 10% or 20% of the former tuition I was paying and donate it to the public school she attends, the PTO, where it will do immeasurable good. These things may seem petty and self absorbed to you, but they make me feel in control, happy, and far less stressed.

    So at the time it was an enormously difficult decision, and now it seems as obvious as the nose on your face. I truly believe that the majority of elementary schools in our system are as good if not better than most of the private schools. The teachers have better credentials, are more accomplished, and just blow me away with their dedication. The parents are more real. The kids are a real cross-section.

    I was faced with a big decision, and it ended up being the better decision. I have yet to meet a parent who went public and though it was a mistake. Have you? And I was one of those parents who never would have considered public vs. private. I'm glad I learned.

  5. Great post, Laurel!

    My son started at our Round 2 chosen school. At the end of the day on Thursday, day 4, we were called by SFUSD and told a spot had opened up at our waitlist school. We were overjoyed because the commute to his Round 2 had been very difficult and stressful plus the school did not have an affordable on-site after-school care program (my husband was able to temporarily juggle his work schedule to make it work in a pinch) so it was a no brainer for us to say yes to the waitlist school.

    The school district wanted us to start at the waistlisted school the next day, which meant my son would not get to say goodbye to his beloved teacher or his new friends at school. We REALLY loved his Round 2 school! I agonized over our decision to move our son but knew we wouldn't be able to sustain life at the Round 2 school.

    My son had a very easy time adjusting to K at the Round 2 school. No tears and he started making friends almost immediately. However, upon starting K at the waitlist school on day 5, there were lots of tears and saying he wanted to return to the Round 2 school. He was upset, I was upset. I wondered if we'd made the right decision.

    He was in good spirits when I picked him up on Friday afternoon and excitedly talked about his day at the new school. I was relieved.

    Today's drop-off went well so I think we are over the transition hurdle. The past week was definitely an emotional roller-coaster ride but it is completely worth it in the grand scheme of things.

    A morning of tears isn't so bad for 6 years at a school closer to home.

  6. 13166- you are correct- there are spots at Rosa Parks. I know 2 people who were registered for the JBBP but went private.
    My daughter started kindegarten there. it was our #2 pick and I am so glad we ended up there. I have been pleasantly surprised at the ease of transition for our daughter to kindergarten at Rosa Parks JBBP. It is a truly great program and the school has a nice community feel. There is alot that will be happening to green the campus this year as a result of the grant the school won last year
    The teachers i are wonderful and the new principal seems really good. The school is clean and beautiful, she's making new friends of all different backgrounds, and she is really excited about the japanese. It has only been a week and I'm amazed at how much she already knows!
    Check it out if you aren't happy where your child is!!

  7. Laurel, loved your story and am glad things worked out so well for you. But, to answer your question, yes, I have met people at our private school who tried public and it did not work for them. Alvarado, Argonne and Buena Vista Spanish Immersion are names that come immediately to mind. These families are making the sacrifices you describe (and no, I do not think you are self-absorbed or petty to want those things, you are normal) to send their kids to private elementary school. I've also run into families from our school on public school tours. The money weighs heavily for many of us, especially families with more than one child, but we've found ways to stay at our school. I guess we are so stupid that we don't even realize that we're less sane and "less real" than public school parents.