It's a particular fact of life in New York City that parents in possession of children must be in search of a school.
Talk of where to send your kids often dominates parental conversation—even pre-conception. And it tends to go on all the way to high school—except for the elite minority who get into and thrive at some of the city's highly coveted pre-k–12 private schools that can now cost close to $43,000 annually.
In my family's case, both for financial and philosophical reasons, neither suburbia nor private options were considered. So when my first child was born in 1995, and there was no popular elementary school or publicly funded pre-k in my neighborhood, the search began early—and often.
Fast forward 20 years. If my youngest son manages to pass gym (please don't ask how one fails gym ... it has to do with showing up), I will be the proud parent on June 24 of two New York City public school graduates.
And I will have lived (and written) my way through the experience, sharing tips, wisdom and disasters along the way.
That's why I'm going to be inviting Insideschools readers to share their own in the coming days as I wrap up this column and get ready for graduation. The site has been my guide throughout the journey.
So, was it worth it? Absolutely! Could I do it again? No. The entire process would be different this time, because so much has changed—in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.
Take my neighborhood elementary school for example, the one too many Brooklyn Heights parents shunned in the mid-90s in favor of private or parochial options. During that time, it was possible to get a variance to attend a coveted public school out of district, if there was space. And we were lucky—there was, two subway stops away at the tiny, amazing PS 150 in Tribeca.
Yet today, our local option, PS 8 on Hicks Street, is thriving, although overcrowded. It also now goes up to 8th grade—a huge advantage that would have saved me hours and hours of searching for middle schools, a topic I chronicled over two searches.
I can think of nothing more ideal (and easier for both parents and kids) than having a quality k–8 neighborhood school that parents eagerly support. Not to mention one that it is within walking distance.
And I can think of nothing more frustrating than moving to a neighborhood for its public school only to be turned away or have your kids placed on lengthy waiting lists—even for those who live across the street. That has naturally led to enormous anxiety for city parents, not to mention frustration and anger.
So, on the topic of elementary school, I leave parents with a question: How do you feel about your neighborhood elementary school? What would you tell parents who are thinking about where to live or what they can do to make sure their child has a high quality elementary school experience in NYC?
What have you learned that you might share with Insideschools readers? We'll tackle middle school next.