Where to begin...
Our urban schooling journey began at the beginning - that is, if you define "the beginning" as the "beginning of typical formal schooling." In April 2009, our family (dad, mom, two girls - ages 5 and 3 - and two cats) decided that moving from a small mid-Atlantic urban area to a large mid-Atlantic urban center was the best next step for us. The Hubs moved first, the rest of us stayed to pack, sell, say goodbyes. During that crazy late-Spring, we certainly did those three things, but we also began the eager look for new housing. Internet research helped us narrow the search in terms of city-neighborhoods, and lots of short trips to and from helped narrow it even further. The Hubs was employed by the City so we needed to live within the city limits which also narrowed the search - to us a good thing. We had been badly missing the diversity, the excitement, the cultural/educational/recreational richness of a true urban environment. We were excited about raising our girls here!
My main focus was on finding us a school. The big concern was that girl #1 was to start Kindergarten in the Fall - just a few short months away! This meant it was too late to apply to private schools, something we never really considered anyway. We thought of ourselves as "public school people" and not just because affording a private school would be tough (and a religiously-affiliated school was not something that fit for us). So I delved into the research - looking at statistics, reading blogs and discussion lists, finding media stories, and talking to anyone I could find. I love research and felt confident I was getting a reasonable picture of the school system and where we would be happy.
However our first inclining that perhaps our research had led us astray was when we went to tour the public elementary school that "everyone" said was the school for us. Immediately, I knew that we would not be sending our children there. Thankfully, The Hubs had a possible solution when I called him in a craze. The girls and I went off to tour a nearby public elementary school that had little "press" but a good word of mouth reputation. I had read little about it - it seemed under the Internet radar - but I was desperate and willing. The tour went well. I liked the staff and teachers I met, the girls were comfortable with the classrooms, and the "feeling" of the school was good. Whew! It would be ok.
The only barrier was that in our urban setting, like many, your public school is determined largely by where you live. The catchment lines are unclear and confusing and do not necessarily correspond with zip codes or neighborhood lines. It is possible to request a transfer between catchment schools, but that needs to be done the previous Fall, making it impossible for us. So, the solution: we needed to move into the catchment area. I had found (through a helpful school district official) the link to the catchment map the district used, and therefore could plug in any address in the city and check to make sure it was in the "right" school. It was now June, we were closing on our "old" home in less than a month, so The Hubs was charged with finding us something to rent that was within the catchment, accepted cats, and had on premises laundry facilities!
He did it and we moved down August 1st, with a few weeks to acclimate before school began.
(to be continued...)