Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Henrietta's Hunt Begins

Hi SF K Files friends,

I am excited to share my elementary school tour notes with this wonderful community over the next few months. I have enjoyed and appreciated this site ever since I stumbled upon it in 2011, and I have probably spent far too many hours already thinking (and over-thinking!) about schools in San Francisco. 

I live in the Miraloma Park neighborhood with my husband and two kids, the oldest of whom will be kindergarten eligible next fall. Like Confused Parents (hi, fellow new bloggers!), my son has a summer birthday. He will just barely be 5 when SFUSD starts next year. We are 95% sure we are going to send him then, but we acknowledge there is a small chance we may choose to hold him back if we feel he has not hit the maturity level needed for today's kindergarten. 

Last spring, I created a big spreadsheet filled with lots of data points about all the schools we might be interested in, but we realized that at the end of the day we are looking for a school that feels "right" - squishy, emotional decision-making, I know.

Our strong preference is for a public school and we feel the district offers so many wonderful schools, but we are nonetheless looking at a few private schools that we find intriguing. We would only apply to a private school if we deeply felt that one of those schools could be the best option for our family. Of course, given that our son has a late birthday, he misses many independent school cut-offs for next year. In addition, having a second child just two years behind makes the financial considerations of private school an issue, which further narrowed the field.

We have a number of things we would like to have, but no absolute deal breakers (and maybe some tensions between our wants?). Obviously, we want at minimum a safe school where we think our pretty easygoing kids will thrive. Here are some things we are considering:

Proximity - This is the closest to a deal breaker we have. After all, the third column in my school search spreadsheet is "Distance," coming after only "Name" and "Public or Private". We love the idea of a community close to home, and while we will be very involved wherever we end up, that is easier if we do not have to travel far. We are primarily touring schools that are an easy walk or drive from our house or at least on the commute path downtown, although we will look at a couple schools that are not close by. We would rather not drive across town every day for the next 8-11 years (factoring in the younger sibling). Start times factor into this as well, as the further away the school, the later it needs to start. Claire Lilienthal is by all accounts a wonderful school, but that 7:45 am start time that far away is just not doable for our family.

Diversity - Being a part of a school that reflects the city and world we live in is important to us. Our son currently attends a very diverse (racially, socioeconomically, same-sex parents, etc.) preschool, and it would be somewhat unfortunate if we ended up at an elementary school that is significantly less diverse. We are a multiracial family, and I do think there is value to being at a school where some kids look like my kids. The reality though is that my kids will be a minority at any school they attend. Given that, I do not want to write off any school solely because it has over 50 or 60% of one group, but those kinds of stats are a negative for us.

Arts - I have a kid who paints a picture at his free-choice, play-based preschool nearly every single day. He also loves music, especially singing, and sometimes spends all day singing - at home and at school. Sometimes made up songs, sometimes not. I feel that he may find particular enjoyment at a school where he can have lots of opportunities to express his artistic side. I know more and more schools have embraced bringing back the arts to produce more well-rounded students, so I am optimistic that we will find a reasonable amount of "arts education" at most of the schools we tour.

STEM/STEAM - I actually would not have thought this was important to us as recently as a year ago, but it turns out my kids really like math! So schools with any special programs in this area get bonus points. But, as I was the little kid who checked out 17 books at a time from the public library, I do not want a school that consequently undervalues the simple pleasures and benefits of good books and reading.

Foreign language - Immersion is interesting to us, but not something we feel strongly about. That said, it would be great if we ended up at a school where some language instruction is at least available in its before or after school program.

Obviously, we cannot tour all of the many public schools we think could be a good fit. We might be able to add one or two schools to the list below, but childcare and work constraints are unfortunately limiting factors. We plan to rely on parents we know at other schools, the October 25 SFUSD enrollment fair, and impressions from people who have toured those schools if we do not have contacts at the school, including both friends and the reviews here.

We are currently planning to tour (and I know some of these are the usual suspects around here - sorry!):

Public: Miraloma (our AA school), Sunnyside, Glen Park, Lakeshore, Fairmount, San Francisco Community

Charter: Creative Arts, TECA

Private: San Francisco Schoolhouse, Sunset Progressive School, Synergy

More soon!

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