introducing armistead

We got Claire’s school assignment! We didn’t get our first two choices, the adorable schools that are within walking distance.

We got our third choice. It’s a short bus ride away. It has a great campus, with all the kinder and first grade classrooms opening off a library, and an organic garden out the back. The principal is a woman about our age, totally kickass (and parenthetically, hawt!) Claire got into Spanish immersion but there’s also a Chinese bilingual stream and English general education, so the school is a veritable crazy quilt of cultures. The kids all do Carnavale and Chinese New Year.

It’s so ridiculously charming and San Franciscan that I have taken to calling it Armistead Maupin Elementary.

Because this is me here, and I am incapable of doing anything in a gracious and straightforward manner, I have had moments of eating my heart out over my first choice school, especially as two of Claire’s close friends got into it. And yesterday, ambivalently, I dropped off an application to get on the waitlist for that school.

Ambivalently, because Armistead Maupin is actually a better school in several respects. There’s that library! And the test scores are higher, not that I care about test scores, which usually just measure white middle-classness, but Maupin is the very opposite of a white middle-class school so high test scores mean it is doing something surprisingly right. And as Jeremy points out, there are significant advantages to having school friends and then other friends who do not go to the same school as you. For example, you have more friends.

What’s more, we were lucky to get ANY of our choices: about a fifth of families went zero for seven in the first round. My first and second choice schools both saw triple-digit growth in demand this year, and demand for Maupin itself was up double digits. (I never think about my second choice school, oddly enough, which suggests that it should have been my third choice.) (In fact our little cohort was ridiculously lucky. All four families got fourth choice or better, and we all got Spanish immersion. Holidays in Sayulita, anyone?)

It’s not very likely that we’ll get into our first choice school off the waitlist. I’m actually pretty okay with this now, as I get more and more attached to the thought of Claire attending Maupin. The surprising thing about this is that a few years ago, my first choice school was underenrolled, meaning if you made it your first choice you were bound to get in.

In other words, demand is going up, and this is because more parents are applying to public schools, and this is because the schools themselves are getting better. Which means? That crazy terrifying Diversity Lottery, the one that makes it impossible for us Type A moms to control exactly where our precious darlings will go to kindergarten, is doing precisely what it was intended to do: mixing things up, challenging everyone to improve all the schools, and helping give all the kids in San Francisco a better education.

None of which is any comfort to the families who went zero for seven. My heart goes out to them, and I wish them every bit of luck in Round Two. And to the parents who have yet to go through the whole messy process, I say what wise parents from (the awesome, the essential) PPS kept saying to me: Yeah, it sucks and is labour-intensive and stressful and startlingly painful. But we ended up with a great school where our kids can thrive.

For an incredibly funny and reassuring perspective on the whole mess, go read Sandra Tsing Loh.

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