This is the fourth part of a series documenting the steps one family is taking to prepare for their son’s entrance into kindergarten next year. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
by Gail Z.
In my last post, I told the story of my unreturned calls to our neighborhood school. I had wanted to tour the school but was unable to get in touch with anyone who could help. I was, however, able to make an appointment to visit the school on the other side of the neighborhood, the school where a number of children who “graduated” from my son’s preschool attend. We are hoping that this school—a TAG school—will be an option for us.
On the day of the visit, we were running a few minutes late. Though I called ahead to let the front office staff know, I was a little nervous. I thought, What if we can get into this school, but our tardiness hurts our chances? I quickly brushed that off and instead turned my thoughts to the questions I needed to ask about the school, the schedule, and our chances of getting in.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the school counselor, who would be our tour guide. I thought it was nice that they had a designated person to do this for parents interested in the school.
We walked through the halls, peeking into classrooms along the way. I thought to myself, These children are working and focused, but not stressed or overwhelmed. At one point, we passed students walking through the halls with their teacher. My former-teacher self praised them, in a whisper to my husband, “Look at how on-task they are!” I was giddy, both as a parent and as a former teacher. Maybe it was the sheer excitement of checking out a school for my first-born and imagining the possibilities he’d have there. They offer World Languages at this school, and notebook laptop computers. There’s also a computer lab available so that teachers can bring an entire class at a time! I was pleased. My husband and I were both pleased.
I ran into an old friend there; we had gone through the same teacher training program together. We’ve kept in touch via email and I knew that she was a teacher there, but I wasn’t sure I would see her that day. She told me that this that school was the best she had worked at. And one of her colleagues noted that the staff members get along very well and that the administration is also great.(I know firsthand that having a great leader and great coworkers in a school can make all the difference in the world).
At the end of the tour, we asked how to go about potentially enrolling our son there. We were told we could submit a transfer request, but that some schools aren’t eligible for transfers (last year, this one wasn’t). There was also some confusion about whether our son’s preschool address might help us make the case for him going to school on that side of the neighborhood. (I’ve since called the early childhood office and was told that only our home address counts, but that we should, again, submit the transfer request.)
When we left, we were hopeful, but knew we had some calls to make.
After getting no response from our neighborhood school, my husband put in a call to the area office, but the secretary there was not helpful, essentially telling him that the contact in the area office was never there, and couldn’t be reached. I tried calling our neighborhood school once again, to no avail. I recently bumped into another former colleague (an early childhood teacher and expert in my eyes) from the school where I had taught, who assured me that we were doing the right thing by visiting schools and asking lots of questions.
Eventually, we ran out of time and registration had begun. I remembered the nice woman I had spoken to in the Transfer Office, who stressed the importance of registering our boy early so that we’d receive the robo-call once transfer season began. So, despite the fact that we had several unanswered questions, we went to our neighborhood school and enrolled him. But before we left, I explained to the records secretary (I don’t believe she was the one I had spoken to each of the three times I’d called) that we had reached out several times to request an official visit, to no avail. She asked me to leave a handwritten note for the principal, and that she would get it to her. I was thankful, but not hopeful.
Later that week, it occurred to me that I should try to hunt down the principal’s email address and try contacting her directly. I do this all the time when it comes to my professional life. Why not try it this time too?
When I found the address, I was hesitant. I didn’t want to seem like the nagging mother, especially if this school would be where my son ends up. I didn’t want him to enter school with some sort of stigma because of me. But I let all that go, and I hit send. And later that day, as I was sitting in my hairstylist’s chair, I saw the response in my inbox—the principal was planning an open house for incoming Kindergarten families May 10.
The Student Transfer Season for the 2016-17 school year is from May 9 through June 10, 2016. Read more about student transfer requests on PGCPS’s website here.