Friday, April 1, 2011

The school situation

Last year, we really loved Kaitlyn's school.  Unfortunately, it was part of a district that ran into financial problems, and although it had been open since the 50s, had an awesome staff, small class size, great principal, amazing pick up and drop off situation and we loved the community feel of it, they closed it at the end of the school year.

We lived in the middle of two other elementary schools and really struggled with which one to send Kaitlyn to.  We had to chose between Orchard or Dry Creek.  We were going to go to Orchard, I liked the community garden, I liked that it didn't start until 9:30, I liked that it had a great pick up drop off set up, I liked that her principal was going there, I liked the location, I liked sooo much of it.  The main thing I didn't like was that it was a K-8 school.  But, we had chosen it.  We had to go to Dry Creek to have them sign off on her transfer (she was randomly assigned a school) and when I went in to do it, I met the principal.  We talked.  He told me Dry Creek had smaller class sizes, more technology grants, a computer lab in every classroom, smart touch white boards and was only K-4, plus he has a student there, so I thought that would mean great things.

And for a while, I did think we made the right choice.  Since then though, little things have really bothered me.

The drop off and pick up line is ridiculous.  Drop off isn't as bad, but you do have to arrive at least 10 minutes before class to get your kid to the front and dropped off.  I do not like to get Samantha out in the cold or rain if unnecessary to drop Kaitlyn off.  And Kaitlyn prefers to run off with her friends.  The pick up line is a joke. I arrive most days at 2:30 for a 3:05 dismissal.  I sit, parked in line and rarely get to the front before 3:15.  That's 45 minutes everyday, wasted sitting in the car.  If I want to park, get out and get her, I can either park blocks away, or I can get there at 2:40 for a space.  Again, sitting parked in the car waiting until the bell rings to go and get her.  It's so frustrating.

Then, we got the letter.  Students are only allowed to miss 10 excused days a year.  Kaitlyn used 7 the first week and a half of school when she had her tonsils out.  I had told them when we signed her up, we didn't want to enroll her until after she was released from her doctor.  They refused and said they wouldn't be able to hold her a spot in the district if we did that.  Ok.  And since it was the beginning of the year, they wouldn't do Independent Study.  Ridiculous.  So, we took it.  And after 5 days, the nurse started calling saying she needed to go back to school.  She should be fine now.  She ended up going back 4 days before her doctor released her because of their constant phone calls and her feeling ok.  But, I had to worry all day if she was drinking enough through the day.  Then, she got a sinus infection which caused pink eye.  They wanted her back 24 hours after she started the medication, even though her eyes were still goopy, she was miserable and had no voice.  Um, no.  So, she has used all 10 days.  Which resulted in the letter.  The letter explained that all future absences required a doctor's note or Dusty and I could be held criminally responsible.  Um. Seriously?

The principal had told us that every other Wednesday he sent home a not to the parents keeping them up to date on what was going on with the school.  This lasted through December, but never included the fun stuff they were doing, and it can be really hard for a 6 year old to remember that next Friday is sports or jammie day.

Kaitlyn's class doesn't have heater or AC.   All the copper has been stolen out of their class.  That sucks.  And I don't hold the school responsible, however on the really, really hot or really, really cold days, they get sent to another classroom that has both working.  And is DOUBLE the size of their class.  And it's an empty class.  Um, why not just move them to that room????

Not to mention the other little things, like her being so bored at school, them not pulling out the advanced or behind kids to let them have extra time doing other things, the library incident and all that.

You know how when all those little things keep adding up, it can take a tiny little incident to push you over the edge?  That happened today.  Oh boy did it happen.

The second week of March, they sent home little letters asking if parents wanted to buy "Love Notes" to put in the yearbook for their kid.  The rules were: 1. Max of 30 words; 2. Max of 3 per student; 3. $1 a note; 4. Due March 18.

I asked Dusty's parents if they would like to buy one and my parents and of course we did.  On March 17, I saw Kaitlyn hand her teacher her envelope with the order for yearbook and love notes.  Plenty of time, and she did just as she was told to do.

Today, in her backpack (which I check daily) had an envelope with her receipt for her yearbook, and a note saying that her Love Notes weren't received in time so she would not be getting them.  WTH??  So, I call on my way home (I know, bad) because I'm that mad.  I talk to the administrator in charge of year books who tells me that she didn't receive them until March 24.  To which I explained she handed them in on time and it stinks that the teacher didn't get it into her, but Kaitlyn should not be penalized for it.  She got flustered, said the principal had already gone home for the day and she'd have him give me a call Monday.  I will say, while I was mad, I was very nice, because my kid goes to school there and I know better.

What makes this a situation though has more to do with a school that sent us a mailing the other day.  It is in our district, but about 23 minutes away and really in the middle of nowhere.  If you see my previous post about getting lost, it's in the area I first got lost in.  Very country.

The school is accepting transfers.  While it is a public school, they do have an application process, are tough on discipline (which I do find important), have GATE for all grades, an art program, choir, drama, dance, a science program, an agriculture program, a school garden, sports and PE and all for every grade, K-8.  They require community service projects from all students, they push for ethical and moral education.  They are a really small school and while they are only K-8, they are only 9 classrooms.  I checked out their website and me and Dusty have been talking about it.  Their website is updated for the parents, EVERY DAY.  Wow.  That alone impresses me lol.

They are a CA distinguished school, the computer ratio is 2:1, and they have some of the highest test scores in the region.

They are having an open house on Tuesday.  I want to go.  I want to check it out.  While I don't want to transfer Kaitlyn again, I know how great she is at making friends and I want to have her going to the best possible school.  And I argue that even though it's 23 miles away, it isn't like I would lose any time in dropping off or picking her up.

Dusty said if they don't do her love notes, she's transferring (he's not happy with the school either lol), but I am just so torn!


Anonymous said...

What happens if they acknowledge the teacher's error, but because of printing deadline, they can't have the love notes put in?

Denise said...

That's what I asked Dusty :P Really, I wouldn't switch her schools based on Love Notes alone, but it is that breaking point where on Monday I fully intend to go over all of my concerns and find out if there are answers to the problems. I think that it's to the point where if something so simple isn't happening (and this isn't the first time, we got charged for a library book they said Kaitlyn had, I had to call, question them and everything else before they discovered the teacher had the books and hadn't turned them in) and there are so many problems, how much can I really trust them with my daughter's education?

BBH said...

Really, I'm kind of impressed with all of these schools. It makes me want to teach in your area! Do you get to pick which one in the district she goes to if you're bringing her back and forth? Our public schools are zoned and you have to go to whichever one is in your area.

Wouldn't getting her tonsils out not count against her, what with the doctor's note from that?

That REALLY sucks about the heater/AC but I live in an area where AC is a necessity. I would think it would be in CA too! It also really sucks about the love notes, and she shouldn't be penalized. I hope they can fit them in, that's really not fair.

You're right about kids making friends easily, especially in the lower grades. That other school sounds amazing! Good luck with your decision!

BBH said...

And I just read the comment you wrote. It really sounds like her teacher has a lot of stuff on her desk or something, unorganized with the library books and the love note money. Tsk, tsk!

Denise said...

Many of the schools in our district are "under-performing" and because of that you pretty much get a piece of paper signed and go to whatever school you want to, as long as there is room :)

In my opinion, AC is a necessity, I mean last year when it was in the triple digits, they had the doors open to cool off the classroom. I don't see how kids can concentrate when they are so hot. But, they don't see it that way. And I do feel for them.

Any absences prior to the 10 days don't count. So, even though her absences were excused, they count against her. They have a zero tolerance for unexcused absences. And if you leave school early, it counts against you. So, even though they don't get out of school until 3:05, I picked her up once at 2:45 for a doctor's appointment and got a stern letter home.

Denise said...

I really do think the teacher is overwhelmed. I like her a lot, she taught Kaitlyn's reading group last year and Kaitlyn spent a lot of time in her class learning when she was bored in her K class. But, she has 24 students, more than half far below grade level, and at least 1/4 with severe behavior problems. You can see how stressed she is. And with the budget cuts, nearly all school supplies are parent supplied.

I think me liking her teacher is the main reason I've put up with so much. I just wish she had a class aide or something to help her, then maybe there wouldn't be so many problems. And I don't think it helps that it's her first year at this school too and they do things WAY different than her school last year did.

Christina said...

What a mess. The new school sounds promising though. My kids attend a Ca. Distinguished School and I couldn't be happier with it. In fact when we bought our home keeping them in the same school was our #1 priority. We recently reviewed other schools that had self contained GATE classrooms and ended up not even entering for the lottery to get into those as our school is able to offer a more customized program for our son. Definitely go to the open house, even if your questions are answered by her current school on Monday. Good luck!