Hello to all. My (pseudo)name is Becca Brown and I have a daughter starting Kindergarten in 2011, as well as a 1 1/2 year old son who will follow suit three years later.
We live in the southeast part of the city, and I am dead set on attending a school close to home. My husband commutes, and I find that traveling long distances takes a huge toll on our family, and is not something I want to do on a daily basis. While I wouldn't say location is our top priority, it is certainly in the top three. I do not plan on touring any schools further than a 10 minute drive.
A little background: My husband and I both grew up in the Bay Area, and both our families are still here, which is a huge part of what keeps us here. I grew up in the North Bay, and went from kindergarten through sixth grade with pretty much the same 30 people. If I'm not friends with them now on facebook, I could still call any one of them today and have a great conversation. We walked to school together, knew each other's families, and were likely each other's first kisses. I dream of something similar for my kids. My husband bounced around Bay Area schools a lot more, so he doesn't feel as driven as I do to find a forever school for our kids, although I'm sure he'd prefer it.
Further down the road: My professional background includes being a Teach for America teacher, and now running a non-profit that raises money to support public schools in a neighboring suburb. I have seen both the worst (my first year teaching was literally in a janitor's closet. I had to move the bags of trash daily.) to the best (neighborhood schools that are everything I want for my child, but located in a suburb. Could we survive in a suburb?). I am probably going into the school search a little more knowledgeable than your average parent because of my line of work.
Today: While perhaps not a popular opinion, I believe a school is as good as it's parent community. It is the number one factor I am looking for as we begin the search, followed closely by the teachers and principal. Our neighborhood school is one that is considered in transition, and I am keeping tabs on what is happening there this year. The only caveat to that is that we rent, so while it is our neighborhood school now, I am not sure it will be for the next eight years. We are open to Spanish immersion, but not set on it. There are also some rumblings of moving closer to my husband's work, but so far those are just rumblings. If we were going to do that, this would be the year. But we tried the suburbs pre-children, and really didn't enjoy it. Perhaps it would be different now with kids, but it's such a huge risk. For the most part, we love the city. We are likely going to tour one private school, but even on the off chance that we got in, we would never be able to afford it unless it was almost entirely covered by financial aid. We are decidedly middle-class, falling right between making too much to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to even consider sending two kids to private school. So while we will tour the one that is close and I believe has the same values we do, I would be beyond shocked if that's where we ended up. I think I will also have my husband look at at least one school on the Peninsula, just for comparison purposes.