Some of us will be very very lucky... and many of us will probably be heartbroken tonight.
Five years ago I applied to HoustonISD magnet schools for the first time... and River Oaks Elementary broke my new-to-elementary-school-mom heart. I so wanted my son to get a spot in the Vanguard Program... and we were approximately 5,000th on the waiting list. (Or maybe we were 124th, which is the same as 5,000th.)
I was sad my son would not get a chance to go to my top choice school. And I was a little angry.
My preschooler had gone through the testing, had passed the Vanguard test... and was now being denied the education I was so certain he should get.
I was the mom watching the wait list numbers, desperately looking for other Vanguard programs and searching for an apartment to rent inside the River Oaks school district. And, with time, I got distracted by life and chose another HoustonISD school.
I have a feeling that tonight and next week and next month, there will be a lot of parents doing the same thing. So in case you have your heart broken today... and in case this is reassuring to you... let me tell you something as a mom that has now applied for 3 kids to attend HoustonISD magnet schools...
- My first choice school is no longer my first choice school.
- I do not care much about the gifted and talented program anymore.
My new definition of a perfect school looks something like this:
- Kind and Caring Staff. When you walk in, do they say hello, greet the kids and make their eyes sparkle?
- Small Class Sizes, Good Teachers... and a Teacher's Aide. How amazing would it be to have teachers that could give more attention to your child (and not just misbehaving children)... and an extra set of hands to help with the area that challenges your kid?
- A Campus that Feels Safe. Do you feel comfortable leaving your kids?
- Challenging Academics... but Age Appropriate. I do not think kindergarten should have homework. And maybe not the next few grades either. I know there is disagreement... and I see it at our current school (and not ROE Vanguard program!). For me, I'd rather take my kids to the park or let them design Lego cities than spend the evening doing worksheets, or worse, gathering supplies for another diorama.
- One Drop Off Location. This you won't know when you apply for your oldest child... but for younger children, is there a good chance they will get a spot as well? (HISD only guarantees a small number of spots for siblings.) Once your 2nd or 3rd kid gets to school... is there a place where they will all get a spot?
- Good Middle School Options. I am shocked how fast we have gone from Kinder to 3rd grade... and it's practically time for middle school. Some Houston schools are Kinder through 8th grade... which is amazing. And if yours is not... is there a good plan for middle school and, *gasp*, high school?
- After School Care. If you need care until 5:00pm or 6:00pm... is there a good program on the same campus?
- Easy Pick Up and Drop Off. This is an added bonus... but if you are going to do pick up and drop off daily, for 180 days a year, for 6+ years... it would be nice if it did not make you want to scream each time. (Magnet schools do have buses, but it will probably not come to your house... but to a nearby HISD school.)
And there are probably more bullet points that have nothing to do with a certain school program, like the Vanguard magnet program... help me fill them in with your comments!
So... what I'm saying is not to refuse your spot to ROE or some of HoustonISDs most popular magnet programs... because they are great programs... but know that for these schools, more kids are wait-listed than get a spot. And maybe it's okay if you do not get a spot... and instead stumble upon the school that makes your kid's eyes sparkle each morning.