When my husband and I bought our home five years ago, we were instantly charmed by the neighborhood school, just a block and a footbridge away. Its sprawling lawn, the sounds of frolicking children on the playground, hundreds of pint sized learners coming and going with brightly colored backpacks in tow. This fall, the day finally comes for us to be a part of it. Our oldest starts Kindergarten, and we have the chance to connect with our community more than ever before.
I recognize that many families end up at a public school by default. It’s free and convenient (also, compulsory). We have the privilege of opting in. There are nine private schools fifteen minutes or less from my front door; including one my mom has been happily employed at for three decades, and another where we had a very positive preschool experience.
But, when weighed against our neighborhood public school, they’re not for us.
After touring schools and doing my middle class due diligence, I fell in love with our neighborhood school even more. Through years of being a consumer of news media, my bar was set admittedly low, but it exceeded every expectation: moderate class sizes, multiple music teachers, multiple art teachers, multiple Phys Ed teachers, a full time librarian, ample recess, a safe environment, an active PTO and more. It is bright and cheery; it seems like a ideal place for our children to learn and grow. It made our commitment to enrolling in the public school feel like far less of a gamble.
I believe in Public Schools. I want them to succeed. There are a lot of factors surrounding their success that I can’t directly control. *Cough, cough* school funding *cough, cough*. But, there are far more that I can impact. I can volunteer in the classroom, the library, and for the Parent-Tearcher Organization. I can be a proactive support person for my child’s teacher; I can be encouraging and helpful. I can create meaningful relationships with other families in our district. I can be a witness to the current situation at the school and then be an advocate in the community and to my BOE and State legislators.
While it’s my son’s first day of elementary school, it’s also a first day for our whole family. I am excited for this journey and I plan on wearing my rose-colored glasses for as long as possible. And, when/if they come off, I will double down on taking charge of the things that I can do to make the public schools a positive, productive place for all children, not just mine.
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