This chore came up last spring while we were packing. Making this kind of decision can fill a parent’s heart with dread, particularly when it involves a child entering Grade One in a brand new school/town/province. What if I make the wrong choice? Will my child learn and thrive or become stunted and scarred for life?
Saltspring Island has three public elementary schools and a few private school options. I could have tormented myself over this decision, which would be the usual way I do things, but it was really a no-brainer. We went with the school with built-in friends – the boss already had two excellent friends on the island, both of whom were starting Grade One at Saltspring Elementary, located pretty much in the centre of the island – which is good when you’re not sure where you’re going to end up living.
Done and done!
Our new school, Saltspring Elementary, is the largest school on the island. On the first day one mom informed me, only half-jokingly, that it is locally regarded as the island’s “inner city ghetto school”. This is what it looks like:
the inner city ghetto school
And just for comparison, here is our old school in Toronto – in an upper middle class neighbourhood full of doctors and lawyers and other professionalish types:
the semi-posh neighbourhood school
As a further comparison, Saltspring has about 170 students, K-5. The entire school body can go out to sing Christmas carols (in the rain):
In Toronto, Runnymede Public School has about that number of kids… just in kindergarten. (In all, there are 1,100 students K-8.)
So when another island parent actually tut-tutted my school choice on the grounds that Saltspring Elementary was way too big… well it just made me laugh. People are funny, and parents are funnier than most.
One other big difference: at our old school parents were not allowed to enter the school yard until it was time for dismissal. If you entered the school you had to sign in at the office and get a Visitor’s badge. (Or risk being challenged in the hall by the vice principal – which happened to me our first week there.)
In contrast, our new school’s fall newsletter invites parents to join the kids in the schoolyard to play!
I liked our old school, it was a little crazy but it was a busy, BUSY, noisy place, with a million activities going on at any given time, and the teachers and committee-mad parents were terrific.
And I also like our small new easygoing school. Our island-style inner city ghetto school!