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.