There was lots of good advice on finding a school for your child at a recent panel discussion on choosing an elementary school. OK, OK, so I was one of the panelists, but I'm not talking about myself here.
My fellow speakers, Martha Benoff, a certified school psychologist, and Luise Moskowitz, who is on the Outreach Committee for the Home and School Association at Greenfield Elementary, were chock full of helpful tips, which I'll share here.
Benoff started out talking about a news story she had seen recently that tracked several New York families as they sought to get their children into an elite private school there. The families believed that the preschool their children attended would set the course for the rest of their lives, putting immense pressure on 4-year-olds to perform.
Benoff urged the crowd not to adopt this mentality. "There is no one right school," she said. "There are many right schools."
She also talked about how many parents, including me, feel overwhelmed at the number of school options in Philadelphia, a feeling she calls "too muchness." It's counterintuitive, but having too many choices induces anxiety.
So, just calm down, trust what your gut is telling you as you visit schools, and know that you will probably make the right choice.
"Too muchness" perfectly described my own feeling while searching for the next school for my son, who is 4. On one hand, I feel stuck because my local school is underperforming. On the other hand, city parents like me face a variety of bewildering options, including transferring to another Philadelphia district school and applying to charters, private or religious schools. Some suburbs even accept students who don't live there for about $10,000 a year.
But the choices don't seem easy. The district schools with the best reputations are quickly filling up with catchment children because more families live in Center City, so there are fewer spots for transfers.
The most popular charter schools have hundreds of applications for every spot. Not everyone is comfortable with a religious school, and yearly tuition at most private schools starts at about $11,000 and is more than $20,000 at many.
And then there are the practical considerations, which Moskowitz said people need to take seriously. If the dream school for your child involves a 30-minute commute, do you really have time for that? It's about more than just avoiding a stressful morning. Tardiness can affect your child's ability to get into other schools, she said.
Greenfield is probably the most popular choice among parents seeking to transfer their children within the Philadelphia School District. Moskowitz said the number of children that Greenfield accepts from outside its boundaries varies from year to year, but this year, the school is filling up with catchment children. She thinks only about 10 from outside the catchment will get into Greenfield.