In Henrietta, where I grew up, school selection was straightforward. There were a half dozen or so public schools scattered around the town. When your child was old enough for kindergarten, you signed him or her up at the one closest to your house. Done. If you didn’t want public school, the only other real option was a diocesan Catholic school over at Guardian Angels, which ran through third grade, and then Good Shepard for fourth through eighth.

Here in Buffalo, it’s not that easy. There is school choice, which means that you can send your child anywhere in the city for public grade school. Additionally, there are charter schools (none of which cooperate, by the way, which means applying to each one individually) and a scattering of Catholic schools. They all have different application deadlines and requirements — some programs use testing to determine which students are admitted, some use a lottery system. Some have “sibling preference”, where a student with an older brother or sister at the school gets priority, some don’t. Some reserve spots specifically for students in the neighborhood, some don’t. The age cutoffs are all over the place. It’s all very confusing.

Since Dean will be going into kindergarten next year, we’re working through all of this stuff right now. I just dropped off his Buffalo Public Schools application this morning — yes, in the year 2013 you still register by filling out a paper form and taking it to the Registration Office — and we’ll be sending in some for charters in the next couple of weeks.

I suppose it’s nice to have all of these potential options, but it really causes a sort of option paralysis; there are so many different decisions to make, and of course as a parent you’re constantly afraid that the slightest mistake or misstep will send your child’s entire academic future right off track. There are times when I envy the simplicity of the Henrietta approach.

13 Responses to “Kindergarten”

  1. BrianN says:

    We agonized over this for a while too. My Dad’s advice was, “don’t worry about it, all elementary schools are terrible.” He later said, “the only thing more agonizing than going through elementary school as a student is having to do it as a parent.”

  2. matt says:

    I’m sure it’s mandated by the state, but one nice surprise was that the BPS schools are listed in the application along with their current “status” according to the latest battery of standardized tests.

    I mean, almost all of them are listed as “failing”, but it’s still a nice touch.

  3. BrianN says:

    Do you guys at least have busses? We didn’t get into our nearest school because we misunderstood that “our neighborhood school” wasn’t necessarily the closest one, and since we didn’t list the neighborhood school on the form were put into a lottery. We got assigned to a school on the other side of town, with no bus to take him there.

    We also saw all the test data for our local schools. It’s pretty hard to digest, since it’s not just the teachers but the students that contribute to the scores. And then they are constantly reorganizing the district here, making it even more confusing. In the end we went with Catholic school. Jury’s still out on whether it was a good choice.

  4. matt says:

    There’s busing here, but I think the kids only get dedicated school buses through grade school. After that, they can use their student ID for the city buses and train.

    As it stands right now, we’re applying to four different schools. If we don’t get anything that we want, we may be going the Catholic school route as well. We’ll see what happens.

  5. Pitt says:

    I’m pretty sure that Brian’s dad hit the nail on the head. Grade school has to be the most traumatic thing for a child short of having a pet die. Looking back, even high school was pretty hit-or miss, at least until Junior year, when the light at the end of the tunnel finally appeared.

    So that’s where NFTA gets its ridership numbers from…

  6. Stacy says:

    As I work on our FOUR applications for next year…I thought about this: If X=159 then Y=159 or 156 and A=64 and B=64. If X=81 then Y & B=81 and A=0. Unfortunately I don’t think Central Registration is going to be able to work that school magic. Too many variables.

    I won’t even pretend to be ok with all this, or describe what it took to get my children enrolled this year, coming from out of state in August.

    The real reason for the comment however, is to say hi, we are bike commuters in Buffalo, and it’s good to share the road with you.

  7. waterwolf says:

    Matt, you are correct to agonize over the choices. The way I see, you only have one shot at getting it right. I believe that the smaller the class size, the smaller the school—the better. I attended both public (Fairport) and Catholic (Aquinas and Niagara) schools. Nothing positive happened until I hit the Catholic System. Teachers at Fairport could care less about the individual student —unless your father was on the school board. Most picked up their pay checks and pensions and went home. In a Catholic School (or any private school) parents and teachers care enough to make sure children get educated. Discipline is another issue. There is none in the public system. The people on this board are some of the smartest people I ever met….think about your common education link. What wrong choices lurked at Henrietta, Irondequoit or Pal-Mac?

  8. matt says:

    The latest drama — I had to write a letter to the Registration office for BPS to explain why my son, who is old enough to be in kindergarten this year, shouldn’t be placed into a first grade classroom next year. No letter, he skips over kindergarten entirely.

    I’m surprised they didn’t ask for a telegram.

  9. Pitt says:

    *shudder* Pal-Mac. For some reason, whenever I hear that name, besides causing involuntary chills to run up my spine, I think of hallways swarmed with power-pellet-chomping yellow discs, each with a pie-shaped cutout, being chased by multi-colored ghosts.

  10. BrianN says:

    Our district also required actual paper for registration for some reason. I had to actually go myself to the central office to deliver it, where some nice old ladies carefully looked it over and didn’t tell me I filled it out with the wrong neighborhood school. But hey, what can you do, at least it’s not a broken web site.

    Did you keep him back because he just made the age threshold?

  11. matt says:

    His birthday is at the end of November, but the cutoff for BPS isn’t until December 31. We weren’t comfortable with sending him to kindergarten at four-going-on-five, and preferred to wait until after his fifth birthday.

    I went to school early, so I was always the youngest, and it sucked. I’d rather he doesn’t have to go through the same thing.

  12. BrianN says:

    The spread of ages in Kindergarten is pretty remarkable, a 6 year old is quite different from a just turned 5 year-old. I’ve heard some parents are holding kids back just so they can be the oldest in the class. That’s kind of silly, too.

  13. matt says:

    I’ve heard the same thing — it seems to be common for sports-mad parents who want to make sure that little Timmy has an extra year to grow before high school football.

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