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Finding the right school is a tough choice

Staff Reports

One thing that I know for certain is that local parents have strong opinions about their child’s school. Be it pre-school or High School, the question that is “all the buzz” from the T-Ball fields to the Vilar Center for a dance performance is ” Where is your son/daughter going to school next year?”School choice is a relatively new phenomenon in the Vail Valley and the options now seem to be limitless, that is if you allow them to be. Jumping through hoops, hurdles, and “lists” parents are seemingly more concerned today than years past about the school of choice for their child.Personally, I find the abundance of choices to be almost too much. It nostalgically tugs me to the era of my parents raising four children in a small town in rural Iowa along the Mississippi River. As the saying goes, times were simple then. Your child attended either the public school or the religious schools in the area. Parents weren’t presented with any other options.The good that I reflectively see in the limit of choices for our parent’s generation is that for the most part, parents commonly joined behind those few area schools and built them up to greatness. Resources, including money, time, and talent, were pooled together. All children benefited from the positive feelings that parents had about their local schools. No one felt odd or misplaced by not being in one school or another.And I really can’t remember any negatives to the old system. I was enrolled in our public school, K-12 and am neither more nor less advantaged because of this.The growth of private, charter, variances to public schools in different boundaries from where one resides, and religious schools in the Vail Valley brings an interesting new dynamic to parenting. Are you more/less of a “good” parent if you do not “choose” a school for your child?The anxiety among parents is seemingly at an all time high. My advice? Simple: Follow your heart. Do what is right for your child AND your family. Ignore the tempting albeit yet fleeting desire to engage in a mini “mom” circle at the local ball fields discussing how important it is that little Johnny gets Jane Doe for a teacher or how many spots are left at the John Doe Academy. Walk to a peaceful spot, think about your child’s individual needs, and do what is best and doable for your family.Doable is both a literal and figurative point. Do not hesitate on your decision based on financial needs solely. Many valley schools have made a strong commitment to educating our local children and are striving to meet the needs of our changing communities. The schools advertise in local papers that they are looking for diversity and will offer financial support to students as is possible. It is a confidential process that does work. Parents just need to find out more about the variety of options. Unbelievably, public schools are forced to charge kindergarten parents for full time kindergarten, which some research indicates is best for most children. Money, money, money, as an old familiar song rings in our ears. Don’t let the concern of how to pay for a school limit you by not learning more about your options.Figuratively speaking, doable has to be a choice that doesn’t complicate life all too much for your family. One school of interest may seem like an amazing opportunity for your child, yet it will not be a success if it proves to be too taxing on your family in regard to commute time, neighborhood connections, and the reality of siblings who may need to attend a different school. Keep life streamlined enough to meet the needs of everyone in the family, mom and dad included!The abundance of school choices for us all in the valley is exciting and unnerving at once. Personally, I long for the days when I walked through the woods and hid my rain boots behind a tree on the way to school so that Wally Cale wouldn’t tease me about the galoshes that my mom lovingly forced me to wear! Life was simple, and my family of six gathered for dinner nightly at 5:30. Now, At 5:30, many local parents are driving their children up to forty five minutes home from “the best little pre-school in the valley.” What are we losing by gaining such choices? Perhaps a little bit of sanity!Elizabeth Chicoine can be reached for comment at ElizChicoine@cs.com.


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