Within Walking Distance

It came today. The folded white self-mailer from the Boston Public Schools with the news that Connie had been assigned to the Washington Irving Middle School in Roslindale for sixth grade. You’re probably laughing if you read the earlier post about me running around like crazy to change the school choice form so that we wouldn’t have the Irving as our first choice. Ha, ha!

It was really no big surprise. The other schools we chose each have their own fifth grade Advanced Work Class feeding the sixth grade, so getting into either of those was a very long shot. I’ll call tomorrow to try to find out where we are on the waiting list for those schools. I expect that the BPS phones will be well-used tomorrow.

We have heard a lot of good things about the Irving School. The principal who arrived about three years ago seems to have created an environment of positive changes at the school. The place has very quickly gone from a school that people didn’t even want their kids to walk past, to one that has been winning a variety of educational awards. We were actually looking forward to Connie going to school a little closer to home next year, UNTIL we heard about one of those awards. Last year, the school won a competition for grant money to extend the school day to NINE HOURS, from 7:30AM to 4:30PM. While I’m sure that is a great coup for the school, it is hard to imagine that sort of schedule working out with all of the other things C. likes to do. She was not at all happy when she heard the news.

And so now we get to spend a few more weeks chewing on another school-related decision. Decision? There aren’t a lot of options. We got ourselves into this by moving Connie out of the Hernández and into the Advanced Work stream after fourth grade. Going to the Hennigan for fifth grade meant that C would have to go to another new school for sixth. Truth be told, Connie would go back to the Hernández for sixth grade in a minute, but that would seem like the strangest of all decisions.

A reality check helps, too. Connie has an assignment in a school that is two blocks from our house and seems to be moving in the right direction. So what if she’ll be spending more time there than her Nurse Practitioner mom spends at work? At just the time we were opening up our assignment mailer, many families were getting the official word that there was no K-1 placement for their child. Too many others got the even worse news that there was no K-2 placement for their child in the zone (a geographic area in which they can choose from 16-18 schools) where they live. If their child is going to be in the BPS at all, s/he is going to have to travel a long way to kindergarten. By comparison, our assignment problems are pretty minor.

More and more people are blaming their school problems on the way the BPS assigns students to seats. Always aware of which way the wind is blowing, the Mayor has gotten into the act this year, saying very clearly that he wants to change the system so that more kids go to school close to their homes. In truth, the current assignment system has worked pretty well for us, but is it the measure of a system that it works for me?



Filed under School Assignment

5 responses to “Within Walking Distance

  1. Rachel

    Well, I share your (and Connie’s) trepidation about the length of the school day, and also the 7:20 start time. My daughter will be there for 6th grade AWC too. As one of the founding parents of the Iring Advisory Group (IAG), I have heard a lot of concern about the length of the school day, and felt my own. I can tell you that the previous dismissal time of 1:20 was also a big problem. And that there was a lot of excitement about all the creative, exciting things that could be done with the extended time. Also, BPS was wanting to replicate the turnaround success of the Edwards Middle School, which also used an extended day as part of a positive school transformation. Parent input and info. sessions are coming soon. And the Principal IS as fabulous as advertised. He is an intelligent, thoughtful and passionate middle school educator to his core. This is a work in progress, and parent concerns and input will be heard. But that does not change the hours, at least not for this year.
    Overall, though, I am grateful that my daughter can go to a neighborhood middle school. I think 6th grade is a great time for kids to expand their social and educational horizons. My daughter has been in a one class per grade model for years. I think to have a year with more peers in a larger environment is right on time, and also hopefully eases the culture shock of the transition to an exam school.

    • Thanks, Rachel. I didn’t know that there is an Irving advisory group, but I’m glad to know that it exists and that you’re on it. Your comments are very consistent with a lot that we’ve heard. Now that she realizes that many of the kids from her current class will also be at the Irving, she’s a bit more open to the idea. The Principal told me that they were working on introducing Spanish for sixth grade for this coming year. Do you know anything about that? I think it will be important for us to find some time for her to see what actually happens after 1:20PM at the school. She does a few things after school that are really important to her. We’ll have to see.

      • Rachel

        The Irving advisory group is also behind creating the Roslindale k-8 pathway that links the 6 Roslindale elementary schools to the Irving, as Roslindale was the only Boston neighborhood without a k-8 option. Now we are trying to make it a school that is highly chosen.

  2. Great! It looks as though you are well on your way to achieving that goal. I should say, however, that I spoke today to the parent of an eighth grader at the school who has had a tough time there. When I told her that Connie might well be there next year, she said that the eighth grader’s fifth-grade cousin (who lives with them) is going to the Timilty for sixth grade. She said, “Not again. The school is better than when R. started, but there’s still too many ways to get in trouble there. Too many distractions for anybody who wants to be distracted…” I guess that just means that there is still more to do.

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