Parent of a Soon-to-Be Kindergartener

As a new mom, I’m struggling to figure out the school system in Los Angeles, the second largest in the nation. There are roughly three-quarters of a million children in the LAUSD, over 720 square miles. In my hometown, if you live near a school, you go to that school. No big deal. At least, that’s how I remembered it.  In LA, you are surrounded by schools. But some are not so great. And some are great. But they are all packed to the gills with kids, so you have to compete/win a lottery to get in.

Our assigned public school has a GreatSchools rating of 4 out of 10. Of the few reviews I can find on it, they report that the kids don’t speak English, hence the poor scores. And because the parents don’t speak English, they’re not involved. And the school struggles with funding. I don’t want to see my daughter in a Kindergarten where she can’t speak the language of her classmates. I haven’t toured the school yet, and I know I should and not make judgments when I haven’t even seen it, but it just doesn’t get me excited for her. I mean, yeah, she can pick up a second language while she’s there, sure, but I don’t want her to feel alone. New schools are hard enough. I couldn’t imagine being in one where no one understood me.

So, I learned about Magnet schools, and I applied to two. We’ll be entered into a lottery for our first choice, and if we’re not chosen, we’ll be entered into a lottery for our second choice. If not chosen, we remain on the wait list. There’s some sort of matriculation point system for applying to magnet schools, and we have 4 points. We can get 4 points a year for up to 3 years for applying and remaining on the wait list. You can also get points for other things, most that don’t apply to us. The students with the most points get chosen first. If we’re chosen and choose not to attend, our points disappear. But please. It ain’t happening.

So, then I learned about Charter schools. I’ve found 5 or 6 in my area, and I’m in the process of picking up applications at those schools to apply, but again, we’ll be put on a waiting list for a lottery, along with probably hundreds of other kids, and there are several qualifications we don’t have that will put us at the bottom of the wait list. We find out later the results of the lottery and where we are on the list.

Then there’s something called Open Enrollment, where schools with spaces have applications available the first week of May and hold a drawing in early June. But why does this just seem like a pipe dream? Are there really schools in LA who aren’t full? Really?

And then there’s something about inter- or intra-district permits, and at this point, my head has just exploded…

After all that… I don’t know what’s next. Walk into the neighborhood schools I like and beg? I’m a ball of stress about this – and she’s only going into Kindergarten! Why is it so hard to get my kid into a Kindergarten? I mean, how hard is it to run a good Kindergarten?! My daughter is bright and funny and delightful – schools should compete to get her enrolled! What the fuck, LAUSD?!

I know Kindergarten is not required. I could carry on with her in Preschool and enroll her in 1st grade next year, or pay someone to homeschool her, but I really want her to have a stable, positive school experience, starting with Kindergarten. I want to know where she’s going beyond that year, and relax a little. I want to have faith in her teachers and her curriculum and the district that they’ll be good for her, and she will be happy. I just don’t know how to make it happen.

This is reason #859,346 why I don’t think we’ll make it out here. Los Angeles, you make it so hard.

After learning we were #180 on the waitlist at our dream school, on the waitlist for our first magnet choice, #27 at another school and #6 at another school (sigh) …. We learned that C1 won a lottery spot at a Charter! It’s a school I randomly found online, noticed that they allowed online applications, so I applied without giving it much thought. As it turns out, it’s a well-respected school with a great reputation. I took a tour and loved what I saw. It’s 10 miles away, so not the easiest commute, but it feels like such a load off to know she’ll be in a good school, I don’t even care. We got lucky. Whew! Thank you, Universe! My sweet baby will get a good education in her first year of school.


Update #2: 

Less than two weeks before school started, I got notified by two other schools that our daughter was selected from the waitlist! We had one day to decide. Both were good schools and much closer to our house. My heart kind of broke because I loved our first charter school. I had time to learn all about it and fall in love with all of it. I knew nothing about these other schools, but my husband was SOLD on picking one closer to home. So based on test scores and reviews, we picked one. A top rated school, close to home, with a good teacher in a good neighborhood. We won the lottery again. Now, if anyone needs a school wardrobe for a 5-year-old girl, I’ve got a bunch to get rid of….

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