Gifted Option vs. Neighborhood School: Choosing What's Best for your Family

Written by: Jay Annadurai

The Round 2 letter from Chicago Public Schools Office of Access and Enrollment arrived. The selective enrollment testing process had been low-key for our daughter. Instead of formal “prepping,” we maintained our routines and didn’t talk about the test. This approach may have backfired. Leela told me she mostly ignored the assessor’s questions, telling stories instead. “There goes that,” I thought.

Then Leela was offered a spot in a kindergarten options program! With one week to decide, we searched for the magical “right” decision. I consulted friends, NPN’s Discussion Board and, even asking strangers for advice.

Here’s what we considered:

1. Commute: Our neighborhood school is two minutes away. The options kindergarten was an hour bus ride, each way.

2. Community: Both schools have great parent networks. However, getting involved in our local community had strong appeal.

3. Academics: The options classroom used a 1st grade curriculum. We worried Leela might not be challenged in the neighborhood program. But would the options classroom be too challenging?

4. Sibling policy: The neighborhood school guarantees a spot for Leela’s little brother; not so with the options classroom.

5. Classroom dynamics: In the options program, Leela would likely have the same 28 students in her core classroom each year (although they mix with neighborhood students throughout the day). Our neighborhood school has more than 120 incoming kindergarteners, increasing the likelihood of new faces in Leela’s classroom each year.

In the end, we turned down the options program. One program isn’t better than the other—the neighborhood program is better for our family. Seeing Leela run up the steps of the school we pass each day and hug her neighborhood friends confirms we chose the right school for our little girl…now just three more years till its her brother’s turn!

A former CPS school teacher, Jay Annadurai now spends her kid-free time as program director for NPN, often helping other parents with their own school search. Jay and her family love living and learning in the city and are particularly fond of their family-friendly neighborhood of North Center.

Posted on September 20, 2012 at 2:48 PM