Wednesday, April 18, 2012

School Assignment

A few weeks ago we sent in our forms to enroll Iris in public school for the 2012-2013 school year.

Let me back track a bit and explain how SPS (Seattle Public Schools) works. The year Iris started Kindergarten (2009) was the last year SPS used a "choice" based model. Children weren't guaranteed a spot at any particular school in your reference area (each reference area has, I would guess, about 10 schools or so), even the school that was closest to your home. You had to fill out an enrollment form and list your school choices in order and send it in, then the district would use some crazy formula for deciding what school your kid would go to. By the time Eloise started school the district had switched over to a model of guaranteeing all children a spot at their reference school. Boundaries were drawn and if you lived in the boundary of that school, your child gets in, period. You could ask to have your child assigned to another school in the area and were allowed to go there if space permitted.

There are good and bad points to this system. The best point being that you now knew where your kid was guaranteed a spot and if you live in the reference area for a school you want, you are golden. There are lots of negatives, however. Many families who had enrolled older children in schools that didn't end up being their reference school (by choice or by force) are now having younger siblings in the awful situation of not getting a spot at the same school as their older sibling. Siblings get priority, but they are still only allowed to enroll after all of the kids who are assigned to that school. My friend, for instance, just found out her daughter is number 11 on the waiting list to get her in to her older daughter's school. The younger daughter was assigned to the reference school, instead.

Now, the one thing is that if a family finds themselves in this situation they can pull the older child out of their established school and send them to the reference school. Not ideal, at all, but at least your kids have a chance of being together. Last year my other friend went through agony waiting to hear what would happen with her youngest of three being waitlisted for her two older children's school. Luckily her child got in, eventually. But the wait and stress is, well, incredibly stressful. If I recall, she wouldn't have pulled her older kids out and moved them. Her oldest was in her last year of grade school!

So, here's the other thing. My first friend, with the daughter at number 11, has her older daughter at one of the most sought-after schools in our reference area. Her younger daughter was assigned to another one of our sought-after schools. If she moved her older daughter, it would result in over-enrolling of that school (a school which is already over-crowded in the first place!). The insane thing is that they would over-enroll my friend's second choice, the school her older daughter isn't at, but they won't over-enroll the school her daughter is established at. Well, let me back-track. That school, as far as I have heard, is also already over-enrolled. That is kind of what is happening with this new model of being guaranteed a spot at your reference school-- schools have to enroll these kids, even if it crowds the school.

That sounds a little jumbled, so how's this: Older kid is at over-enrolled school A. Younger kid is assigned to school B. Older kid can switch to school B, but younger kid won't be allowed to enroll at school A. Both A and B schools are over-enrolled.

Let me get to why I am writing this in the first place, which is that we filled out an enrollment application for Iris to get in to her sister's school. Since Eloise doesn't go to our reference school, we knew it would be a nail-biter as we waited for the assignment. That came Monday and guess what? Iris is waitlisted. Number one on the list, but still waitlisted. It's a little bit different in that Iris is applying for an older grade, where I think there isn't as much movement as there is for incoming kindergartners, but it's a similar dilemma. Remember school B, from the scenario above? The popular over-crowded one? Well, that's our reference school, too. Instead of putting Iris in Eloise's school, even if it means over-enrolling that classroom, they put her at over-enrolled school B. We can pull Eloise from her school to send her to school B, too. Of course that would result in even further over-enrolling of school B. BOTH of my kids would be put in to classrooms where they were no longer in control of the numbers.

It just doesn't make any sense to me. I know SPS needs to have a plan in place, but so many families are being affected by this. Children should be allowed to go to the school where their siblings are, period. End of story.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve about how to proceed with all of this, but none of them guarantees the outcome we want. For that, the most we can do is sit and wait and cross our fingers that a family leaves the school. If that happens, Iris will get that spot.

A lot of people around me are quite optimistic about the situation, but me? Not so much. I am stressed beyond belief by all of this. Continuing to home school Iris is an option, but not our favorite. Iris is ready to go back to school. *I* am ready for her to go back to school, but I wouldn't just send her to any school over homeschooling. I don't yet know if school B is a viable option for her. I jokingly considered it when I thought there was no chance she wouldn't get in to Eloise's school, but now I have to be more serious about it. I won't switch Eloise. Eloise has the best teacher in the world and I am not  moving her! I could enroll Iris at school B and wait for a spot to open, but at that point, do you switch a kid-- again? Iris needs to be in a situation where she can establish herself. Clearly I have a lot to consider, all while keeping my fingers crossed.


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  2. Man, that is nerve-racking. When I first heard about SPS's choice system, I thought that sounded kind of like too much chance. Like, what if my kid got assigned to some crummy school 40 minutes away? (Just as a worst-case example.) So I was kind of relieved to hear they'd switched to a more localized system. But: Not letting siblings stay together? That's just goofy. I can't believe they didn't grandfather siblings in as they transitioned over to the new system, and/or just always let younger siblings in to the school where their older sibs are at.

    After you've said this, it's made me wonder: Are all Seattle schools over-enrolled? Or just the cool ones?

  3. All the schools in Ballard are over-enrolled. I think all the Northeast schools are too from what I hear. I know the North Seattle high schools are really over-enrolled. It seems like the only solution is to build more schools but apparently there is no money for that. SPS used to make my head spin. Northshore's system is so basic and primitive it is very refreshing.


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