Since mid-October I’ve attended one Kindergarten fair, the SFUSD enrollment fair, 4 public school tours and 3 private school tour totaling 22 hours of my time. This of course does not include the time spent discussing schools with my husband, friends and family and doing "research." From now and way into December, each week I have 1-3 school tours and/or open houses scheduled. Is it just me or is this getting ridiculous?
What I’ve been noticing on these tours is that I’m often in a crowd of white parents with a sprinkling of Asian parents asking questions about teacher credentials, spaces in the after school program, details about the specific artists that are being taught about in the arts programs, and the amount of money raised by the PTO. I have also asked our large extended family where their kids are going and, for the most part, they are going to their neighborhood schools (or just a little further) mostly in the Southeast. I even learned that the only reason two of my nieces go to Rooftop is that when the eldest daughter got her assignment years ago and her mom went to the district to get her transferred to the neighborhood school, the person helping her said, “I think you should think about this. This is the school everyone is trying to get into.”
The real questions that comes to mind during these tours is, who has the time to actually go on tours? Who can take time off of work to spend 1 – 3 hours listening to people boast about their school, ask 20 questions, create a spreadsheet of all the different pluses and deltas of the school and then crunch any necessary data available? Who has the resources to schlep their kids more than 15 minutes away from home to attend a “better” school? And while apparently “I do,” the system just feels so… annoying.
So I found a hidden gem in SF a few weeks ago. I had a private tour (nobody else showed up) with the principal of an amazing school, that, unfortunately, is a little too far from our home. None of the kids in any of the classrooms I attended were sitting in their chairs. Two kindergarten classes were doing movement activities. Two classes were having dance class in the cafeteria and auditorium. Two classes were having circle time on the floor. The school seemed vibrant, diverse. The teachers didn’t look stressed. The classes are under-enrolled so the teacher to student ratio is actually better than almost all the other schools I toured. The principal talked about the plethora of arts opportunities they had and collaborations with a number of non-profits and a local university. She spoke about their cultural and language programs that would give my daughter an opportunity to learn about her cultural heritages taught by women and men that look like her!
The principal laughed as she told me about a parent at a Kindergarten fair that asked her, “So, this is like a working class school?” And she replied something like, “Yea. It’s a neighborhood school.” I also spoke to someone I know who is involved in the parent community and has an older child at the school. She loves the school and talked highly of all the bilingual programs. She and the principal said my daughter, even as a fluent English speaker, could thrive in these programs.
And, I felt conflicted about sharing this school with this online community. With all the talk about “turning over schools” and “finding hidden gems,” all I want to do is leave this great school for the kids that already attend it and the kids in the neighborhood that go.