Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hot topic: Switching schools after school starts

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:

We're enrolled in an acceptable school for K but it's going to be a tough commute. We're on a waiting list for a school that's closer to home but it's likely we won't hear anything until after school starts, if at all.

My question:
If you plan on switching your child to the waitlist school if/when you get in, how are you mentally preparing your child for Kindergarten? Do you tell your child not to get too attached because he/she may not stay there? Do you give your child the impression that the school you don't intent to stay at is "his" or "her" school?
It's been difficult to know how to approach the topic because we don't know where our son is going to end up. We *have* to switch to our waitlisted school if & when we get in because of the shorter commute.

14 comments:

  1. I am planning to switch if we get off the waitpool for the public school we want. I haven't told my daughter anything about switching. I've mostly focused on "going to kindergarten" and she knows the name of the school we're assigned to. We will soon go to the orientation at the assigned school. I told her it's a great school that mom & dad picked for her. We've gotten some books about kindergarten from the library. I don't want to talk to her at all about change in case it doesn't happen. I think that will add confusion to her somewhat apprehensive feelings about going to kindergarten. It's been a little hard for me because I am full of what ifs, but I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible for her & enjoy the rest of the summer. I'm a little worried we've under prepared for the assigned school if that is where we end up for the whole year,but I feel it's better not to go crazy getting excited for a school we might not stay at.
    Good luck! It's hard knowing you might change, but not knowing for sure....

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  2. We also will switch if we get our waitpool, or even another decent school closer than our current R2 assignment which is kinda far combined with a 7:50 start time. Our son is still psyched for Kindergarten, and I'm sure that even if he switches in the first couple of weeks he'll get over it shortly. It's certainly not worth giving up a better/closer/whatever school that'll be advantageous for YEARS versus a couple of days of disappointment if he was attached to the old school.

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  3. I know one family that switched from a school they were just fine with when a dream school came open in month two of school. I honestly think it was harder on the mom (guilt over leaving what was an active parent community really coming together to push the school to new heights, with whom she had bonded) than on the child.

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  4. I originally told my daughter that I was looking at so many schools so that I could find a good fit for our family and also because each school had limited spots. When we cleared the waitlist 10 days into the school year I just said "Great news, a spot opened up in our 1st choice school and they offered it to our family." She took it as happy news and was able to make switch without a problem. I wouldn't stress them out by talking about it before it happens. Just present it as if you won the lottery and hopefully they'll realize it's a good thing.

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  5. I think you can be mellow and tell a lie to your child that would hurt no one. Say, "We are going to try out a school or two and see which one we like, won't that be interesting?" And then if you don't get your pick, you might frame it like, "Well, we like where you are" and if you do get your pick, you can frame it as "OK, here we go to try out another school. Aren't we lucky that in SF we can try out schools like dresses?"

    Which is about what it can be, with the lottery. Dresses.

    I speak as a mom who with my child went 0/15 last year, then got lucky with a private school, started her out there, then by the time the school year came around I'd bee laid off and lost all my savings in the stock market. When the call from the public school came in October, I knew I couldn't say no. We have ended up LOVING the public school, and financially, I thank god every day that I'm covered for both my kids for the next five years.

    Bottom line is, change happens. Hope you get the call earlier than later. It's all an adventure, and the kids are probably taking it better than you ever could. I'm not so sure they take things this heavy. The transition may not take any time at all or it would take two weeks. A small price to pay for finding the right school.

    Finally, as to start times and the value of one over the other... We went from a school with a 8am start and am across town commute to a school with a 930 start and a bus line/smaller commute. I would trade a commute for a lesser school--I actually would--because of the stress and quality of time issues. Nothing is worse than being out the door of your home, dressed, lunches packed at (GULP!) 7:15 every morning. If you work, that long day is too darned long for a five year old.

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  6. Would you please consider letting the teacher know that you are on a waiting list for another school? That won't save him / her from all the work of making a name tag for your child and writing your child's name about twenty different times on the various materials your child will use, but it might save the teacher some of the heartache he/she will feel when you suddenly pull your child after ten days of community-building activities.

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  7. I strongly agree with the teacher above: if your child may leave, please let the teacher know. If that is uncomfortable for you, at least consider telling your child's teacher that he/she will not be returning on his/her last day.

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  8. I think it is right to tell the Teacher on your child's last day (but really isn't this SFUSD's job) but I would not tell them before as the teacher may not want to "invest" in your child and they may end up staying. Its a shame the assignment system not only throws kids and parents in uncertainty but also the teachers.

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  9. Nonsense, 3:59. The teacher knows as well as you do that all of your mad schemes to transfer into the school of your dreams may very well come to naught. He or she may hold off on starting some of the time-consuming beginning-of-school tests until your situation is resolved, but other than that, your child's experience will be the same as everyone else's. Still, no one can force you to be considerate.

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  10. Speaking as a Kindergarten teacher, it strikes me as impossible to fail to "invest" in one of the students in my room, whether or not I expect that child to stay for the year. To exclude a child from the community-building in Kindergarten would be very cruel, and I think that all children would notice on some level that one of their classmates was different or less important in my view. For me (and I suspect for most teachers), we do not portion out caring and attention based on what we perceive a student to offer.

    However, if I know a child might leave, I would leave that child's Brigance toward the end of assessment. I can informally gauge a students' alphabetic knowledge, oral language, motor skills and so on. So I can provide the child with experiences geared to his or her level without completing a time-consuming assessment.

    I would also be able to get together that child's work and so on for him or her to take. Otherwise, the first ten days' art projects, etc. will remain behind.

    SFUSD does not inform teachers - or sometimes even the office staff - when a child is transferred early in the Kindergarten year. The child just vanishes from the roster.

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  11. "Nonsense, 3:59. The teacher knows as well as you do that all of your mad schemes to transfer into the school of your dreams may very well come to naught..... Still, no one can force you to be considerate."

    Remaining in the waitpool until it is dissolved is a "mad scheme," now? I appreciate the reminder to families to be considerate of the teacher's perspective and situation (and I agree the teacher should be informed from the beginning that a student will leave if selected from the waitpool), but why your (seeming) contempt for families who choose to see the process through to the end? (The original poster is hoping to avoid a "tough commute" for the next six years... )

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  12. I wouldn't even mention it. My parents changed my school in 1st grade. I clearly remember the teacher asking me to collect all of my things and go to the office, that I wouldn't be coming back. I was confused. I couldn't imagine why I wouldn't be coming back. I knew I was supposed to start ballet, but that wouldn't be all day long. This is how a 6 year old mind works. Next day, I went to the new school and that was the end of it. I think it stresses kids out to know about a possible change.

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  13. There are currently 876 kids waitlisting at 67 schools. Their parents are all expected to notify their teachers that they're waitlisting somewhere else?

    I can see telling the teacher once you DO get your waitpool, but so many are on waitlists (about 12 per school) I don't see the point.

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  14. I think the parent who tells the teacher I am changing schools if we get off the waitlist is risking have their child not get the attention that a teacher might otherwise give them. I think this is human nature and would be done in many instances unintentionally but nevertheless it happens. The system is what it is and teachers should speak up if they think it is a problem for children to be shifting classes in the Fall after school starts.

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