Navigating the Champaign Kindergarten Process with the Pridemores, Part III
EDITOR’S NOTE: We will be following the Pridemores’ journey through the Champaign Unit 4 Schools kindergarten registration process. If you want general information about the Champaign kindergarten process and timelines, visit our overview for 2019 HERE.
By Melanie Pridemore
The last time I submitted an update, we had done our research on the available schools and toured the ones that we were most interested in. At the time I was feeling confident in how we had approached the school of choice process and felt good heading into the application process.
Being someone who is motivated by deadlines, we waited until mid-March to really dive into the application itself. We went online and noted the documents we needed (address verification, birth certificate, medical forms) and attempted to print off the application. After unsuccessfully printing off the entire application (parts of it were coming out encrypted), I ended up stopping by the Unit 4 office and picking up an application packet.
As I got started with the actual application, I found it to be fairly easy to fill out. It asks for a lot of basic information and has you list your school preferences. We submitted ours as follows:
No. 1: Westview: We were first interested in Westview because of its convenient location (it’s about 2.5 miles away), its early start time, positive word of mouth, and its commendable numbers regarding next grade readiness and state scores. We ended up ranking it as our No. 1 choice because we were so impressed with the kindergarten teachers, the principal, and the facility when we visited on our tour. We also really like that they have in-class enrichment and a strong focus on multiculturalism.
No. 2: Robeson: Our reasons for including Robeson on our preferences were very similar to our interest in Westview. Robeson has a convenient location for us (it’s about 2.4 miles away), it has an early start time, and has commendable numbers regarding next grade readiness and state scores. During our exploration part of the process, I also had multiple people rave to me about the principal, Jessica Pitcher, and we were very impressed with her (and the facility) when we visited the school. One unique aspect of the school that I really liked was how they attempt to build a strong sense of community amongst their students and teach the students to understand their role/impact in the community. I also like that they place a strong emphasis on family involvement with special events that invite the students’ families to attend with them.
No. 3: Carrie Busey: What initially stood out to us about Carrie Busey is that it is the only school that is “exemplary” regarding its performance (based on state scores). It also has a newer state-of-the-art school and utilizes the CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) which was a major standout for my wife and I. As health enthusiasts, we loved that Carrie Busey has CATCH because that means they have special resources to focus and improve the health of the kids in the school. Now, you may be wondering why we didn’t rank it as our No. 1 choice given all of this information. The truth is the location is not ideal for us. We live in West Champaign and Carrie Busey is in Savoy which would mean we would have a daily to-and-from commute of 8.2 miles each way. With it being an early-start school and with our work locations (I work from home and my wife works in Downtown Champaign), the location is not ideal which is why we have it at No. 3.
No. 4: Dr. Howard: We came across Dr. Howard after we filtered the schools by location and start time. It’s an early start school and it’s 1.9 miles from our house which is very convenient. The school is currently in a temporary location as a new school is constructed and the new school will be 1.6 miles from our house. The temporary location was not a con to us because we know he would be moving to a brand new school the year after which would be nice. Another great aspect of the school was that, during the tour, we were told about the “responsive classroom” approach at the school and were impressed by the idea. They said the approach is all about trying to identify a child’s various needs (e.g. academic, social, physical) and respond to them so they have their best learning experience.
No. 5: Bottenfield: I have always heard great things about Bottenfield and I know, from word of mouth, that it has great teachers and high parental involvement in the PTA. I have been in the school before (when I worked at the U of I, I would take students there to volunteer) and it’s a nice facility with great technology. I also know that Bottenfield has a commendable status in terms of next-grade readiness and student performance. Similar to Carrie Busey in terms of location, there was one aspect that kept Bottenfield from being higher on our list; the late start and end times. You can’t drop students off prior to 8:30 a.m. (school begins at 8:55 a.m.) and my wife and I both (generally) start work between 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m. Dismissal is at 3:10 p.m. and that is also during a time that we both work. I know there are options for before and after care, but a late start is really not convenient for us. We do, however, like the school enough that we would attempt to make it work if we weren’t placed in one of the other schools.
After I completed the application, I took it into the Unit 4 office where one of the office workers reviewed it and made sure they had everything they needed. She then told me that assignments would be made in late April.
The funny thing to me is that I feel confident in our engagement in the process, but I still find myself second-guessing our choices. I think that’s simply because there are so many options and I feel like there is only so much time to dedicate to it. I know we did our best and I have confidence in the school system so I know Ethan will be in good hands no matter what. That is my logical brain talking; my emotional brain feels attached to our preferences. So we will wait and see what happens next month!
Melanie Pridemore is a certified coach and trainer and owner of 6 Dimensions. She lives in Champaign with her wife and two sons.
Want to read the previous journeys of parents going through the Unit 4 process? Here’s links to our archives.
The Bakers (2018): Installment 1, Installment 2, Installment 3
The Croops (2017): Installment 1, Installment 2, Installment 3, Installment 4
The Blakemans (2016): Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4