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    #50529 - 07/08/09 08:36 AM school choices - suggestions
    Belle Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/15/08
    Posts: 435
    Thanks to everyone who replied to my frustrated vent a few days back....I spent the last several days visiting and talking to several school choices in our area for DS6 for First Grade. We homeschooled for K and then a few weeks ago, he asked about trying school again.

    My husband and I were really disappointed in our choices here..I don't know if it is just because we have such high expectations or what. I think part of it for me is because I saw this amazing school in Tampa (2 hours away) that was sprawled across this beautiful tree lined lot with gardens the kids planted, artwork/paintings everywhere on the outside, was hands-on project based learning and just this inviting, creative atmosphere. Now when I go look at places, I get so bummed out when I see old, cracked buildings that look stark and rundown. And that is all we pretty much saw from some of out choices.

    We narrowed our choices down to 2 and neither are stellar....one is just a plain old, local elementary school - the one that we are slated for in our neighborhood and is 5 minutes drive so I could come eat lunch with him every day to solve the SPD problem he has of not being able to handle the lunchroom noise - we can eat outside together and I can volunteer all the time since it is so close. It is a very good school in a very good area with very involved parents/families. The problem is that it is overcrowded and class size will be between 18-26 and there is a very high chance he would just become a number. The teacher choice will be what makes or breaks this and the principal is a real pain in the neck(I used to teach in the county and he has a reputation for being abrasive and not so accomodating amongst the staff/parents). My son's OT and Speech teacher are there and he has been going to that school for IEP services for 2 years so he knows the building. They don't offer any kind of acceleration (they frown on it)but does have the typical one day a week/3 hour gifted pull out and with his SPD issues, he gets overwhelmed walking down the halls sometimes when he goes for services so I don't know how he will handle a busy classroom. Any friends he makes there will all be in driving/neighborhood distance so he could have some local buddies. They have a library and computer lab and lots of after school programs like robotics, oddysey of the mind...

    The other choice is a small school that is about 35 minutes drive. It is a Charter school and has no more than 14-18 in a classroom. The principal sat and spoke with me for over an hour and I got a really good vibe from her. She knew exactly which 1st grade teacher he would mesh with when I told her he is an out of the box kid and shared all the info about him. She said there would be no issues with acceleration/going to 2nd grade for reading/math. She shared how she does not like the FCAT test and that she prefers to look at a student's overall school work for the year. She said she would be very flexible with a possible trip we have planned at the holidays to New Zealand to see my parents and that she would have no problem writing excused absenses if our trip needed to go over (said - he would probably be learning more on that trip than what he could be learning if he was in the classroom- the other school would not be so understanding). He will be able to get his speech/OT services but there are only 1-2 other children slated gifted in the school so he wouldn't have as many peers he could mesh with gifted wise unlike the public school which has a larger population. Their curriculum is the Core Knowledge curriculum (which I have taught and really enjoyed) and has a lot of project based learning which means less focus on the traditional teacher lecture and then follow with a workbook (which the other school will be). It is farther away which means I can't come for lunch every day (they eat outside though...no cafeteria and they also have no library or computer lab) and any friends he makes may be a distance away for play get togethers or hangouts. Limited after school programs

    So we are stuck with a school that is close,not so flexible, regular public school or a school that is a bit of a drive and is flexible. Both have good and bad points. Husband and I spoke and said if we could eek out this school year in one of these public schools then he would be eligible again for the McKay Scholarship here in Florida (IEP students-if after a year of public school you are not happy then the state will give you the cost the public school would have gotten for our child and we can take that money and go attend any school of our choice). There is an amazing private school an hour away that is just unreal but is more money than we can afford. But give a year, he will be more mature, more able to deal with the hour drive and the tuition would be covered by the McKay. The video of their school is a gifted parents dream
    http://www.thewillowschool.org/video.html

    So, would love to hear any comments/suggestions about our 2 choices we have.


    Edited by Belle (07/08/09 08:40 AM)

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    #50530 - 07/08/09 09:03 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: Belle]
    ColinsMum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/19/08
    Posts: 1898
    Loc: Scotland
    TBH this sounds like an easy choice, to me - the second, small charter, school sounds like a much better bet. I think the attitude of the principal is really important, that's the main thing driving my feeling.
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    #50532 - 07/08/09 09:46 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: ColinsMum]
    Belle Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/15/08
    Posts: 435
    oh - forgot to add...with the small charter school they require uniforms (which we found out last year is a real pain...with SPD wearing a shirt that has embroidered stitching is like wearing sandpaper for an SPD kid - so in 90+ degree weather my little guy would have to wear an undershirt underneath his uniform shirt) and the public school does not require a uniform - he can show his personality through wearing what he wants.

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    #50533 - 07/08/09 09:51 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: Belle]
    Artana Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/10/08
    Posts: 227
    I had the same type of choice. I did go with the Charter School, despite uniforms and everything else. I really am happy with the choice. In the other school, communication was lacking, no one would work with me, and it was pulling nails. Now, it takes 20 minutes or more to get them to school, but the school works with me and treats us as partners in the educational process.

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    #50534 - 07/08/09 10:01 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: Artana]
    melmichigan Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/05/08
    Posts: 679
    I agree with the smalller school. In case it helps, when my DD9 went to montessori we had to sew t-shirt material on the inside of her shirt over all the embroidery. I noticed gymboree and some other clothes lines are already doing something similar from the store with highly embroidered shirts. Best wishes.
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    #50537 - 07/08/09 10:37 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: melmichigan]
    Breakaway4 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 06/23/09
    Posts: 465
    Loc: MA
    I agree with everyone else. One of the most important factors is the willingness of the principal to work with you and make accomodations. Good luck with your decision!

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    #50538 - 07/08/09 10:42 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: melmichigan]
    Floridama Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/09
    Posts: 389
    Loc: Florida
    I'd also go with the charter school, if you can get in.
    Here in Polk County we have 1,000's of kids stuck on the waiting lists for the charter & magnet schools.

    Just want to make sure you know that Mckay scholarships are only for disability ESE kids not for gifted ESE even though they get an IEP.

    Good luck with what ever you choose

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    #50545 - 07/08/09 11:53 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: Floridama]
    Belle Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/15/08
    Posts: 435
    Thanks Floridama - my little guy has had an IEP since he was 3 and it is for Speech and OT and then we will be adding gifted on this year, so he would qualify for the McKay - we qualified for it at the end of the 07/08 school year because he was considered a PRe-K ESE student in the county but we couldn't find any schools in the area that took the McKay at the time...we lost the McKay for use for this coming school year because we homeschooled him and even though he is counted on the FTE count, he is counted as a homeschooled ESE student which makes him not eligible for the Mckay...so if we can find a good fit for this school year in public school, he would be qualified once againg for his 2nd grade year.

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    #51081 - 07/22/09 08:33 AM Re: school choices - suggestions [Re: Belle]
    Belle Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/15/08
    Posts: 435
    Ok, I am a little stressed but hopeful...after lots of talking, we have decided to give the local public school a chance. DS6 made up his own rating system of all the schools we visited (I about cracked up when he told me....the school got points from the way it looked on the outside to how he felt about the inside, the distance and activities they offered) and the public school ranked the highest on his list. His IEP (for speech and OT) that he has is not appropriate for a school based setting since we wrote the goals last year for homeschooling. The last IEP meeting, I was steamrolled so we have hired a local advocate who is highly recommended. She said she was going to meet with me and my husband- talking with her on the phone was like a breath of fresh air...she knew what dyspraxia was and ticked off a large list of accomodations that would be needed...she knew the term 2e and just seemed to know exactly what I was talking about and understood! She will then go with me to the IEP meeting that she is going to call for before school begins. I could have kissed her....I asked the school a few weeks ago about trying to get an IEP meeting before school started so everything would be in place before he started school and they said it wasn't possible...she said that was a bunch of hogwash and that she was going to get the ball rolling.
    When I told her about the charter school we were looking at she told me to dig deeper on the school and that she really isn't allowed to offer her opinion on the schools but she did say that my son would be the only gifted child in the school and that they have a bit of a history of not being able to meet the needs of gifted children...I did some digging and it appears that the charter school is a last ditch effort for some children who have been suspended or have been behavior problems in other schools and they have been placed in the charter school to try to get their needs met. The school had over 12 incidents last year concerning fighting, stealing, battery on staff and bullying. eek! So the charter school was ruled out by us (and it scored very low on DS6's scoring)
    So I am worried sick about whether this will work or not but I am hopeful with a trained advocate by my side and knowing that I can get his IEP all lined up with accomodations BEFORE school starts and with our gifted testing, he more than qualifies for their 1 day a week pull out gifted program. I pulled up the first grade spelling list and took a list from one of the last few weeks of school and he already knows all of them...so I can't wait for this meeting to see what is said. Keep your fingers crossed! I would probably prefer to just keep homeschooling him but when he asked about going to school, I want him to know that i support him when he wants to try new things. Oh boy!


    Edited by Belle (07/22/09 08:34 AM)

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