By Jenny Lokshin
With the end of March, another form of madness has come to a close. Our kindergarten rankings are in. We did all the research, went on tours, attended the forum, and possibly may have talked to every other parent of an incoming kindergartener in the city of Champaign.
Before we began the lottery process, we were positive that a certain school was right for our family. It’s within walking distance, our neighbors have kids there, and it’s my husband’s elementary alma mater. It seemed like an obvious choice. But…after all the tours, the forum, even visiting a school during their spring carnival, we discovered that this decision isn’t so simple. The problem we ended up facing was one that I never imagined we would face when we began the process: we had too many good choices.
How do you rank your favorites when there are aspects you love and not-so-great aspects about every school?
Our list became a game of trade-offs. This one has a great community feel, but the facility is old and tough to navigate. We loved the teachers at another, but everybody and their brother are ranking it first (and their brother is likely already enrolled, so they get sibling preference)! This one is freshly remodeled, but the bell schedule would be tough for our kid, who is definitely not a morning person. That one has a great schedule, but it’s clear across town, and why would we want that when there are more convenient options?
Of course, teachers and administration can change. Buildings will age, and others will be remodeled. The one thing that stays in the parents’ control is the culture of a school, which is largely dependent upon active, involved parents. We aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty when it comes to the PTA. So, while we were stumped, we knew that there was enough good in every campus to make any of Champaign’s elementary schools work for us.
With all else equal, it really boiled down to logistics. Which choice would add the least amount of stress to our already taxed family? We started by eliminating the balanced calendar schools from the running. After much discussion, it was clear that the schedule wasn’t the best fit for our family.
Proximity was huge, since both parents work full-time outside the home and share one vehicle. We live within 1.5 miles of six elementary schools, and four of those ended up in our top five.
The next variable we factored in was bell schedule. Early start times would likely lead to lots of tardies, since we tend to have a lot of trouble making it out of the house in the morning (my kid isn’t the only one in our family who isn’t a morning person).
We are not decisive people, and at the end, our decision almost came down to an actual coin flip. But we finally were able to figure out our ideal schools and rank them in our ideal order. And now, we wait. I’m confident the system will work, and positive that we’ll end up at the school that is right for us, whichever one that may be. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
Jenny Lokshin fell in love with a Champaign townie while studying at the University of Texas, and made the move to C-U with him in 2010 after a decade in Chicago. Mother to Dexter and Nina, she works in higher education marketing at Human Kinetics.