Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Kinder Search Continues

This morning, at the ridiculous time of 8:20, David and I took the second of our five scheduled kindergarten tours. Well, it was my second--his first. I think he's on board for the rest, though.

You may recall my earlier post about maternal angst, neighborhood schools, the San Diego Choice program, etc. Because I've already been on one tour, I couldn't help but view this one through the lens of "compare and contrast." Which is helpful, in a way, but paralyzing in another. And that's just how I roll. Pretty much with everything.

For you locals, the school was Dailard Elementary in the neighborhood of San Carlos. Same neighborhood as Benchley-Weinberger (my last tour) but a little closer to us. Unlike Benchley, Dailard is not a magnet school. According to the principal who conducted our tour, there is one advantage to Choicing into a non-magnet--there's no lottery system. Apparently, magnets have a limited lottery where they favor students from "non-performing" schools, as well as students who would travel a certain distance. We live in "Zone #1," which has last priority. The principal told us that, last year, every student who listed Dailard as #1 on their Choice application for kindergarten was accepted. And that is something to think about. Because if I choose either of the two magnets on our list as #1 and she doesn't get in to them, she won't get #2, either, since the #1's would already have filled those slots. Are you as confused as I am?

In any case, there were some other checks in the "plus" column for Dailard. The principal himself, for instance, a friendly, approachable, young-ish man who seemed super-enthused about his school and its students. Very sweet. The location, which is nestled in the "mountains" of Mission Trails, is quite lovely. And the campus itself--built in 1976, it's probably one of the newer San Diego Unified schools, and it shows. The playgrounds are spacious and new; the buildings are shiny and painted soft colors. The classrooms and library are large, and the computer lab features shiny new iMacs. And there's air conditioning! It looks like a nice place to be.

Other than that, it's just gut feelings, I guess. The students look busy and happy; the teachers seem engaged. We watched a perfectly adorable music class play us a song about the new year. Like Benchley, there isn't great diversity, and the Asian slice of the pie is particularly low. I have a feeling that will be true across our list.

If there's anything that gives me pause about Dailard, it's that it's not a Communications magnet, which has a great attraction for me. I love the idea of all the students at B-W learning sign language, attending the theater together, anchoring a TV news station. That stuff just speaks to me personally. But it's not like the kids are deprived of artistic and cultural stimulation at a non-magnet school--there are just fewer dedicated programs.

And it did not escape my notice that we were watched more carefully on this tour. The principal read over every detail of the school's brochure with us (which became overwhelming) and then led us into certain rooms for observation. At Benchley, they told us to go wherever we wanted and speak to anyone, even to the classrooms for higher grades (and I did.) I liked getting to meet the kindergarten teachers, and even have a chat with one while her students were in the computer lab. I don't know that this actually means anything, but I liked that B-W was so confident about its teachers and classrooms that no one had qualms about leaving us unsupervised.

Of course, comparisons between the two schools are pointless if it turns out I could jeopardize Jarrah's chances to Choice into ANY school by choosing a magnet. If there's anyone out there who understands the current process better than I clearly do, please raise your hand and share nicely with the class.


Aunt LoLo said...

Heh...and I thought OUR process was difficult! (Umm...we bought a house in the neighborhood that is served by the elementary school we wanted BBJ to go to. LOL)

Hope you find the right school!! *grin*

DrSpouse said...

Apparently it's horrendous in the UK too, in some areas the primary schools are really cut-throat (here it's mainly the secondary schools that are like that)

miss. chief said...

You had me at 'learning sign language'. Seriously? That is awesome.

Stephanie said...

My head's gonna explode...this is all very helpful. I think the Magnet Fair is 1/30. I've got a lot of homework to do....

The Wades said...

Maybe it is good this school supervised complete strangers roaming the halls with their innocent students.

I'm enjoying this process. When are the next tours?

Jennifer said...

Just something to think about...
It may not be that the principal today didn't want you going into all the classes because they were worried about you seeing all the teachers. Sometimes schools don't like interrupting all the classes. There could be testing going on or things going on in rooms they don't want to interrupt. Some teachers also don't like to be interrupted.

Maybe they have teachers volunteer on certain days when they have visitors and those are the rooms they go to those days.
I personally wouldn't mind someone coming into my room anytime, but other teachers are weird. ha!

BTW..The magnet school sounds fantastic!

Sam said...

@Jennifer & Michelle: Thanks for giving me another perspective on the close supervision! All of that makes a lot of sense. I appreciate it!

Mary said...

Wow. This sounds confusing.

Let me know if I can help at all!