Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Decisions, decisions

And the agonizing begins (I did warn of this in my last post... I knew it was coming).

I have spent hours on the internet looking at schools in this area and checking out their EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office - in other words the standardized testing for the province of Ontario). I've discovered the interesting information in their detailed 31 page reports for each school (I sense the Vulcan in me emerging - there must be something in their numbers that will speak to my search for the best educational opportunity for my children.)

I've pored over school websites and board profiles of the same schools. I haven't slept much for the last 3 nights.

Not that I have mild OCD tendencies or anything.

Now I have all this data and I have to start sifting through it. And figuring out what I think is best for my kids. And seeing what my options truly are - this post is really mostly an exercise in getting my thoughts in order.

I learned that our current school - while not doing badly on the EQAO scores - has a very high percentage of ESL students. 40% of households speak Arabic at home, 30% Somali, we have enough that speak Mandarin to have warranted us using a grant we got to translate some of the school documentation into Mandarin (We also did Arabic and Somali - I helped co-ordinate the initiative). Add to that any other languages that are spoken as a main language at home and I think we're probably down to less than 20% of families that speak English or French at home (the two languages of the school).

After much thought I have decided that maybe our school is a little too diverse - I like diverse, really I do. I welcomed it when we moved back here - we had so many nationalities living in Luxembourg and I had appreciated - for the most part - what they brought to the table (with the possible exception of Belgian drivers - woah... they redeem their poor driving habits with chocolate and waffles though). But our school is dealing with so many different cultures that it almost feels like a family with two many different personalities all wanting to be the centre of attention. Which may be fine for some people, but I find is not best for the Stu.

So my "options" for a new school are:

1) Another Public School Board school that is about a 10 minute drive. They have considerably lower ESL numbers than we do, and similar EQAO scores. Their site looks good, they have some great initiatives mentioned in their board profile (Anti-bullying! works for me!). I know someone who's daughter has started attending the school for Middle school and they seem to be happy - another plus for it is that it does run JK-8 so we wouldn't need to find an option for Middle School (our local middle school is a problem and this school was one we were considering for down the road).

Problem : I have to go and talk to them about a cross border transfer - which is usually done in February. They are a very popular school and hard to get into from what I've heard.

2) The Catholic school right around the corner. The kids could walk. There are kids on our street who attend. It has a very low ESL population. There is less French instruction, though I could (with some self-discipline) probably cover that off pretty well with the kids.

Problem: One of you needs to be Catholic. Neither of us is - they do take other students if they have the room, but there's a chance we wouldn't know until after school starts in September. And we need to discuss our interest with the principal (which I have been told is another way of selling ourselves to her) and she hasn't returned my call for two days.

3) An Alternative School in our Public System. Hear me out here. I've heard of this alternative school because my neighbour teaches at the nursery school/daycare on the premises and her 4 year old is going to go there for JK/SK. Looking at it I am intrigued. Lots of parental involvement, small classes, mixed classes. Mid-level ESL numbers. Mid-level EQAO. It looks like the "real deal" of Alternative schools. It's an environment that I think (if it's all it's purported to be) could be great for the Stu.

Problem: it's not the alternative school for our area (and that one? oooh no. It looks more like a dumping ground for problem children than a true alternative school). So again with the cross-border transfer. And it's a good 20 minute drive, in rush hour traffic. Which wouldn't be an issue in spring/fall, but come winter? Eeesh. That could be a killer.

I have to make some decisions in the next day or so. Cross-border transfers are closed until June 15th when they will be re-opened - meaning that I need to get mine in by Friday so it can be reviewed on Monday. And then? Then they need to contact our current principal to see if she will release us - which she can refuse to do. So I need to pick one of the Public Schools (I don't believe you can request 2 cross border transfers) and then try and explain to our principal that we want out. Which I think is going to come as a shock to her (I see her regularly and haven't said anything because this has just blown up).

And then the logic goes out the window... My son is asking to go to a new school but does he really want to? Or rather he WAS asking last week - this week doesn't seem so bad (yes, but for how long?) Am I imagining this whole problem? (NO). Should I be able to resolve this whole thing with better support for my kids at home? (Possibly - but I am already volunteering 2 mornings or more and we still have problems - I can't keep sleeping with my 7 year-old. Or picking him up 1/2 way through the day which has happened 6 times since Christmas).

Am I being fair moving them? Will they integrate well into another school? Will they (especially Julia) be crushed that all her little friends are still at one school when she's at another?

Not to mention pretty much my entire support network is made up of mothers at our current school. I'm a volunteer, I'm on school council. I have a lot of vested interest at our current school. This isn't going to be easy for me either.

Anyone have a crystal ball they can loan me? I need to see what the future holds.

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