Monday, August 15, 2011

Jack Is Going To Kindergarten

We've had some exciting developments with Jack and school this year. You may remember the post from a while back where I explained briefly the ins and outs of the NYC public school system and Kindergarten admissions. Since then we got Jack's Gifted and Talented test results back and he did not score in the 90th percentile to be considered for a Gifted and Talented School, so we were moving forward with homeschooling.

After we moved into our new apartment, in a new neighborhood, separately Freddy T. and I began having conversations with other parents on the playgrounds about our zoned school, PS 40. Every conversation was the same, parents raving about how great the school was and how pleased their experience had been. After we talked about it we decided we would set up an appointment to meet with a counselor or principal and get a better feel for the school and see if we thought it might be a good fit for Jack this year.

Before I share the rest of our story, read this blog post from Logan Gentry, a pastor at Apostles Church here in NYC. They have a 5 year old little boy starting Kindergarten this year and this was their experience.

Since we discovered the cut off date for kindergarten was December 31st and that Eli would become a kindergarten this coming fall, we have had a consistent conversation about a number of schooling options for all of our kids. We were both in public school the majority of our lives, but more schooling options are now available than ever before since the rise of charter schools and more private schools being in NYC. Homeschooling is also the choice of some of our friends and so we definitely considered it.

We explored a private school, who generously offered us a pro-rated price of $12,000 for the last 6 months of Pre-K. (Thanks, but we’ll go ahead and pocket that 12K we don’t have and teach Eli his letters and colors) We explored and even experimented with home school and investigated charter schools.

In the end, we felt strongly about pursuing the best public school education we could find for our children, assisting the teachers & faculty of that school, and assisting our children and their classmates however we could in pursuing academic excellence (not in the over-parenting-do-your-kid’s-homework way). Sounds simple enough, until you tackle the various enrollment issues of NYC.

Similar to the majority of the US, NYC has zoned elementary schools and districts, so we moved to a good district and zone for public school. We were excited about the local public school, but also discovered NYC’s gifted and talented program.

In February, Eli took a test for gifted and talented, which was like the SAT for 4-year olds and the results were to be provided for us in April. If he scored in the 90s, he could have the option of being in a gifted and talented program in our district, 97 and above would allow him to be in 1 of 5 city-wide schools with the other 5-year older geniuses of NYC.

In March, we applied to our local public school to find out 3 weeks later that we were 27 out of 67 on the wait list for kindergarten. It’s all the letter said, no mention of what next. So we wondered 2 things, 1) Where are all these soon to be 5 year olds in our school zone? We had not seen that many. 2) Now what?

Next, we were notified of a wait list meeting, which involved a number of angry parents from the district squaring off against 2 district employees who were interrupted and yelled at the majority of the night. We did find out we would get an alternative school offer as close to our house as possible in late May.

In April, we found out Eli scored a 94 and was accepted in the gifted and talented program, we then had a week to rank all the programs in our district which runs from the Upper East Side down to midtown, across to the west side and down to the end of Manhattan. After ranking, we were told we would find out in early June which school he was placed in.

Our alternative offer for general public school came in late May and we had 2 weeks to accept the offer or decline, but declining would mean the possibility of losing the option of public kindergarten. We figured the gifted and talented placement would come before the 2 weeks was up, providing us some time to make a decision. We were wrong. We had to enroll the 10th of June and we would receive the G&T placement the following week.

So we enrolled Eli in his alternative offer and then found out the following week he was placed in Chelsea Prep for the G&T program which is on the opposite end of Manhattan from where we live and we were told in the letter there would be no public transportation options, which we eventually found out was not true. (generic letters as communication are so fun and uninformative)

We toured Chelsea Prep and were completely amazed by their program (which includes him learning Mandarin) and fell in love with the school. It will be a great opportunity for Eli’s education and we are excited that he will be entering kindergarten there in the fall. We are looking forward to getting to know the families of his classmates who lives all over Manhattan.

It was quite a confusing process for this first time parent.

So this blog excerpt pretty much sums up the craziness of getting into Kindergarten. Needless to say we weren't even sure Jack would have a spot in our zoned school seeing that it was the middle of July and the first round of applications are due in March. Anyway, I gathered all of our paper work and headed to the doctors office to get Jack's immunization records, on our way back from the doctor I told Jack we would go by the school and see if it was open to set up an appointment with someone. When we got there we (me, Jack, Lillie and Elliott) were directed to the Parent Coordinators office. I told her I wanted to inquire about signing Jack up for Kindergarten and asked how long the waiting list was. She said, "no waiting list right now, do you have his paper work?" I did and handed it over. At that point Freddy T. and I had not made a final decision about school for Jack but I figured I'd go ahead and get him signed up and we could always pull him out later if need be, but he had a spot! After lots of paper work was filled out, the Parent Coordinator came back and told me the principal was in a meeting but she wanted to meet Jack could we wait a few more minutes. I could not believe it. Here we were at the school, paper work filled out, and now the principal wanted to meet Jack. I honestly don't know many public school principals that would come out of a meeting to meet a perspective student. The principal, Mrs. Felder, came and talked to me and Jack, she was so nice and encouraging about Jack being in Kindergarten. She told me that at the end of the school year if we, along with her and his teacher, felt like he was not ready to move onto 1st grade we could hold him back and let him repeat Kindergarten. While we don't anticipate that happening, I'm very relieved to know they won't just get a kid in the school and push him through with no consideration of what is best for him. So just like that... in the middle of July, no waiting list, in and out in an hour and Jack was fully signed up to start school! God provided and worked out the details perfectly. All the horror stories we've been prepared to experience in getting into a school we want for our kids... none of it, so simple. We are grateful!

So can you believe it? This guy is going to Kindergarten!
We are all pretty excited. We've seen him grow and develop so much in the past 6 months or so that makes us believe this is the right step and that he is ready. It will be a big adjustment since he has never been in preschool or in any formal structured environment on a regular basis. Please pray for him that he will have a smooth adjustment (School starts Sept. 8th. He'll have several half days and start full time on Sept. 13th), that he continues to be excited about school, that he makes good friends, that his teacher will be a great fit for him, and for me and Freddy T. Our world will change a lot now that we are on a public school schedule and journeying in unknown territory, but we are really excited for all the opportunities well have to serve the school and interact with other families.
PS 40. Doesn't it look huge? The first three floors are PS 40, an elementary school. The 4th and 5th floor is a middle school, totally separate school, same building. And guess what Jack thinks is the coolest thing about the school...the playground is on the roof!


Katie said...

Oh my word, could they make that process more complicated?!! Wow, but you are handling it with so much grace.

kathy said...

Amazing how God orchestrates everything! With that SMILE Jack will do just fine. Love, Mom

rachie said...

I can't believe he is starting kindergarten!! Time really does fly by. Sounds like this was meant to be and I'm sure Mr. Jack will love school! We need to skype soon before lil dragon is a busy school boy :)

Anonymous said...

Susan, can't wait to hear the stories Jack will have about school. I'm sure he will adjust just fine. The pictures are so cute. Love, Donna

Anonymous said...

Where is the baby boy that moved off and left me almost three years ago? As with Frank and Sarah, another chapter is opening in his life. Jack, I am proud of you and excited for you. I love you so much and love that smile. You smile like that at the teacher and you will do fine. Great Gran

Christi said...

That is FABULOUS Susan! I know that this has to have been a source of unsettled feelings at least for you guys. God did work things out so wonderfully for you! Jack will have a great time and I know you'll love the interaction with a school too! Praying that the school year starts smoothly and that the transition is fun for everyone!! Love you guys!

Lee Ann said...

Love the pictures; Jack will do great! Sometimes the kids are better prepared for these transitions than the parents (spoken like a Mom who just dropped her 18 yr old at college).

The Goulds said...

I just stumbled upon your blog through the Higgs' blog roll, and I am so encouraged to find other Christian families in the public school system. Our four year old son (almost five) just started public school in Louisville, and we feel like strangers in the public school scene since home schooling what most Christians choose here. By the way, I went to UTM, though I believe Freddy T. had already graduated when I got there. I remember hearing his name thrown around at the BCM.