Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Henrietta's List: A Little from Column A, A Little from Column B

Sorry this took so long to post - once tours were done and our application in, there was a lot of life to catch up on!

Our final list is a little bit . . . nuts, so I thought I would make a post just so I could explain the less than obvious reasoning behind our final order. We submitted our application over winter break, though I toured a couple more schools afterward. Thankfully, none of the tours changed how I would have ranked them.

As is clear from my reviews, my impressions of the schools I have toured have been generally positive. To me, it was not a huge surprise as, given my limited touring time, we picked schools that we thought would be a good fit. I also believed (and continue to believe) that there are an awful lot of great schools in the district, and that our family would be happy and successful at lots of different schools.

Our final list reflects conflicting tensions and issues, but I believe it does reflect schools we like in our true order of preference.

The competing issues:

1) All of the concerns listed in my first post still apply, including proximity, diversity (but tempered), math, arts, etc.

2) While we are still leaning toward sending our late summer birthday boy to kindergarten this year, our preschool director suggested we consider a third year of preschool to give him more time to develop socially and emotionally. So we will wait a little longer to decide about kindergarten. That, I think, took some urgency out of the application process.

3) Our preschool director also recommended considering immersion programs for our son. Unfortunately, the only immersion school we had time to tour was Fairmount (which I really liked, and hope to post a review for eventually). We have some friends at a few other immersion schools and mined them for information and advice.

I wish I could mash up all my favorite things from each school into one super-school, but, alas, that is not an option.

So with all that, here is our list (sort of broken into tranches):

1. Miraloma 
2. Sunnyside

Going into this, we expected that Miraloma would be the top school as it is our neighborhood school, and Sunnyside was a likely second. Miraloma has a great community, and it is so close to our house. We hope the fundraising can be sustained to keep smaller class sizes in 4th and 5th grade, as that is important to us. (I wish every school in the district could do at least this, not just those who can “afford” it, but that is a discussion for another time and place). Sunnyside was actually a very close second place. It is nearby, with a great community, and is also doing a lot of really exciting things. We had a pretty serious debate about whether it should be number one, especially given the better (for us) start time, but Miraloma squeaked ahead.

3. Rooftop
4. Clarendon JBBP
5. Clarendon GE

Okay, so we did not tour either of these schools. Also with a less foggy brain than when I submitted our application, I later realized listing Clarendon GE makes no sense no matter how much I like it – last year, unsurprisingly, no one living outside the AA (and with no tiebreakers) who listed it below first place got a spot (http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/S-F-school-assignments-have-predictable-odds-6018732.php). But that realization was not worth going back to the EPC!  We have several friends with children in each of these three programs and have talked with them about the schools in addition to researching them. We knew both schools would be high on the list, so we chose to skip touring them in favor of schools we were less familiar with (other than Miraloma, of course). Proximity, diversity, strong academics and enrichment, great communities, etc. are what landed them here. And, yes, I am well aware these programs appeal greatly to many, many, many families!

6. Fairmount 
7. Alvarado Spanish Immersion
8. West Portal Cantonese Immersion

So this is where the list really goes sideways. Initially, we did not anticipate that any immersion programs would make the top 10 because we are still a bit ambivalent about going that route. But we decided to place them higher after researching the programs and talking with a few friends at immersion schools. Proximity influenced their ranking and all are about equidistant (though as I mentioned, I did tour and was impressed by Fairmount, which is the most convenient of the three). My husband and I are a little more comfortable with Spanish immersion, having both taken Spanish (though not since high school!), but we did not think that disqualified Cantonese immersion programs for us.

9. SF Community – Great school and I am excited by the project-based learning focus. I liked that the community is small without being too small. Smaller class sizes in 4th-8th is also a plus.

10. Chinese Immersion School (CIS) – Part of the immersion bump up, but less convenient. I love the approach of balancing immersion with enrichment.

11. Glen Park
12. New Traditions
13. Lakeshore
14. Sloat

But for immersion, these would have rounded out the top 10. Glen Park is by far the most convenient, but the rest are not bad. I did not tour Sloat, but I had a very long and encouraging conversation with a Sloat parent at the enrollment fair, and she had a child very much like mine in a lot of ways. I also compared notes with a friend who toured Sloat and is looking for similar things in a school.

15. Peabody – I actually toured Peabody (though I have not had a chance to blog about it), and it was one of the schools I liked most, but it is so very inconvenient. If it was half as far, it would have been in our top 5.

16. Grattan
17. Sunset
18. West Portal GE
19. Sherman
20. Feinstein 

Though we did not tour these schools, we believe they could be good fits based on our research and discussions with and recommendations from other touring friends or attending families. But these schools are generally not as convenient as our higher ranked schools either due to location or start time or both, which is also why they did not make the tour list.

And at the bottom of the list, we had 15 more schools, primarily for swap value. Honestly though, we tried to only put down schools we believe are very solid to great for our kids and technically doable for our family, except for one or two where start time and distance make attendance completely impractical.

Charters

We did apply to TECA (actually on the first date so before even touring any SFUSD publics) and Creative Arts Charter, but I would probably rank them toward the end of our top 15, partly due to proximity and feeling a bit stronger about the fit of some of the other schools.

Independents

We decided not to apply to any independent schools, including Synergy, for a variety of reasons that were mostly about us and not the schools. If we do a third year of preschool, we probably will apply to a couple of independents. I really liked San Francisco Schoolhouse (which I toured before signing up to do these notes), which is a wonderful progressive school in the Inner Richmond. Sunset Progressive School is also a very interesting progressive school starting in Fall 2015 – the school actually has a few more information sessions (http://sunsetprogressiveschool.org/information-session-and-tour-sign-ups/) coming up so families looking for more progressive education options should check them out.

And now we wait . . .

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