“I try not to dwell on it,” I said.
“Yes, that’s probably for the best, don’t dwell on it.”
That’s a conversation I had before the holidays, when I was visiting with a Great Hearts Texas staff member, and I mentioned feeling stressed about the Great Hearts lottery. Well, I’m going to ignore my own advice and dwell on it for a bit.
As mentioned in this earlier post, the Great Hearts lottery is coming up next week, on January 21. I have no control over what happens at the lottery, but I can think about backup plans. My friends are asking me for advice, too. So, I thought I would share some information here, and hopefully start a discussion so we can all support each other.
Will it be more stressful to attend the lottery in person, or to wait and look it up online later? I can’t stand the idea of waiting, so I’m planning to attend. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not necessary to attend, and the results will be available online starting January 29, 2014.
At the lottery, we will find out where F.T. stands among all the applications for his grade. On January 29, we’ll learn if he got into Great Hearts, or where he stands on the waiting list. A good number on the waiting list means that F.T.’s chances of getting in are high: there are always a few families who make another choice, whether it’s enrolling at private school, continuing to homeschool, moving to another city, etc.
While we are on the waiting list, we can also apply to other charter schools. Families Empowered, a Houston nonprofit, recommends filling out applications for your top three choices; read more at “Applications 101”. At this time of year, I maintain a list of charter school informational meetings, application deadlines, and lottery dates, and I keep it pinned to the top of the blog—see a recent version here.
To paraphrase Robert Frost: Public school is the school where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. (The original quote was about home.) Greatschools.org has ratings and message boards for San Antonio. If the school you are zoned into is not acceptable, there are options . . . but they come with red tape. For example:
- San Antonio ISD has in-district charters and magnets that accept students from anywhere in Bexar County—but the application deadline was December 13, 2013.
- Northside ISD parents can request intra-district transfers, but there has to be space available at the new campus.
- Alamo Heights ISD, among others, allows for “grandparent transfers” into the district if the student’s grandparent resides in the district and “[p]rovides a substantial amount of after-school care for the [student] as determined by the [School] Board.”
- Theoretically, a student can transfer out of a failing school (there are 41 in Bexar County), but the school they choose does not need to accept them; San Antonio ISD had zero transfers last year. “30 more Bexar schools failing under new test”, Maria Luisa Cesar, San Antonio Express-News, January 11, 2014 (short, free version at mysanantonio.com).
Private school tuition can seem cost-prohibitive, but scholarships may be available. Here are some sources of information about private schools:
- San Antonio Private Schools directory, from the publishers of San Antonio Woman magazine
- Education directory, from San Antonio Magazine; see also “Modern Education”, Miranda Koerner, San Antonio Magazine, December 2013
- The Archdiocese of San Antonio‘s Department of Catholic Schools is arguably the oldest school district in the region
How do you figure out if a school is a good fit for your family? Visit. Ask questions. Talk to your friends. For more advice, see: “School choice guide: 8 tips to help you choose the right school for your child”, Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, December 16, 2013.
If F.T. doesn’t get into Great Hearts Monte Vista this year, then we will probably continue homeschooling. It has its challenges—especially working and homeschooling—but I feel like it F.T. and I have a good rapport for learning and we are enjoying lots of bonding time. This earlier post is a snapshot of our first month of homeschooling; stay tuned for more thoughts and advice about homeschooling.
If F.T. does end up on the waiting list, we’ll be in good company: in Texas, there are over 100,000 students on charter school waiting lists. “Dan Patrick says 100,000 are on waiting list to attend Texas charter schools”, Politifact.com, February 21, 2013 (Truth-O-Meter rating: “Mostly True”). In 2013, Senator Patrick authored SB2, which raised the cap on the number of charter schools; more in this earlier post. Also, the Education Commissioner approves new charters every year; this earlier post has information about the 2013 class. Choose to Succeed continues to help bring high-performing charter school networks to San Antonio, and to help successful organizations like IDEA Public Schools to expand more rapidly.
I can’t help dwelling on it . . . so, let’s help each other out. Leave a comment here to ask questions and share advice. I’ve also created a San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook.
UPDATE: I attended the lottery, and found out that my son’s application is somewhere in the middle. We will start out on the waiting list, but with a good chance of getting an offer if a few families change their minds.