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Yay! We Found Our Kindergarten (Now Will We Get In?)

By Katie Allison Granju |

Cubbies in one of the kindergarten classrooms

Week before last, Jon and I went to the open house for prospective parents at the small, inner city, public magnet school we have been for considering for our daughter C to start kindergarten next fall. We had already done due diligence: looking at test scores, speaking to parents of current and past students and learning about the curriculum. But this would be the first time we actually visited the school.

And wow! Were we ever impressed.

We spent almost two hours at the school that night, and the first thing we both noticed was the most intangible element: the school’s warm and cozy vibe. It’s a classic, brick, public elementary school that looks like it was pobably originally built sometimes between 1920-1940. And while it’s clean and in very good repair, the little school of about 500 students maintains much of its original charm, with brick walls, arched doorways and large, airy windows. And it’s all scaled for little children rather than seeming like a school for high school students that’s been retrofitted for little kids. Honestly, it reminded me of a set from “Sesame Street.”

But even with the vintage charm, the school has lots of modern touches, like smartboards in many classrooms, and a very nice library with multiple computers. Because the school has a specialized fine arts curriculum,  the music room is overflowing with instruments of every kind, and the dance studio is large, airy and frankly gorgeous.

Each teacher we spoke with spent lots of time answering all our questions, and several of them explained to us that that they commute long distances from much more affluent and better rated school districts because they just love the “something special” about this extremely diverse little brick school, located downtown on the edge of a public housing project. The teachers’ enthusiasm for the school and its mission also really impressed us.

As the articulate and polite 5th grade student ambassadors toured visitors around all evening, Jon and I also noticed the incredible variety and high quality of student work displayed all over the building.  Because this is a magnet school, as well as a school that serves as the primary neighborhood school for nearby families (we are one neighborhood over, but very close)  every student who attends benefits from the enriched fine arts and museum curriculum.  The student work that we saw the other night made it really clear that every child in the school – not just the kids who tested into the “honors” track – is getting some great teaching.

Jon and I were SO impressed with this school – which is actually as close to our house as the public elementary school for which we are zoned – that we decided that we would also apply for a spot in the “regular” magnet program there, in case C doesn’t score high enough on the entrance evaluation to land a spot in one of the two “honors” kindergarten classes.

We turned the application for both programs in the day after the open house. Fingers crossed.


UPDATE: Since writing this post (which took me a whole week to actually get around to posting here at Babble’s KidScoop) C took the entrance test, and we found out yesterday that her score was high enough to be admitted to the honors program at this school. Yippee! My next post will be about the test taking and the results-waiting…

Here are a few pix I snapped during the open house of the sweet little school we’re hoping C (and then G, in a few years, will get to attend in the fall.


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Kindergarten Open House: We Loved the Place

Some of the student artwork from the 4th and 5th graders








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About Katie Allison Granju


Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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16 thoughts on “Yay! We Found Our Kindergarten (Now Will We Get In?)

  1. KathrynT says:

    I’ll keep my fingers (and toes) crossed that she’ll get in! And just in case she doesn’t initially, our daughter was 8th on the waiting list for our first choice school (chosen by lottery) but we were notified she was in before school started. It was such a relief.

  2. jzzy55 says:

    Interesting sounding curriculum — sounds like Reggio-Emilia for elementary school. The classrooms you snapped are too cluttered for my tastes, because I work with the SPED kids who don’t do well with a lot of overload, and I’ve noticed many typical kids don’t either. Especially boys. What looks like “cozy” can read “claustrophobic” or “confining.” However, the quality of the teaching is more important than anything else and if you loved that then good luck. I’m sure it will work out just great if she gets a spot.

  3. heidi says:

    I live in the city of new haven Ct. My daughter attends the neighborhood arts and music magnet school. I had to harrass the administration for 4 months to get her…to the point I’m surprised. I’m not in jail. But now she’s in and it’s been a wonderful experience. She has excelled in the comer method curriculum and the school is the only one in the state to overcome the achievement gap. The school is through 8th grade I don’t have to worry about school for 7 more years. To top it off Yale donated money so if she graduates HS in new haven with a B average and volunteers she’ll be guarenteed tuition to college through the Promise program. Sometimes living in a high tax uber liberal state pays off!

  4. Jenn @ Juggling Life says:

    I am delighted for your family, but frankly appalled at the thought of an “honors” program for Kindergarteners. I am not opposed to some tracking in the upper grades, but starting in Kindergarten? I’m speechless.

  5. Emilia says:

    What is a magnet school, exactly?

  6. Danielle says:

    This post brings back fond memories from a year ago of my husband and I anxiously awaiting to hear if our daughter got into our first choice, a public bilingual immersion charter school with a lottery. We did not get in initially, but kept a spot on the waiting list, and I called every couple of weeks until the week before school started, when we found out that we had gotten a spot. It was one of the happiest days of my life, when the hopes and dreams you have for your child feel like they are one step closer to being fulfilled. Best of luck to you guys and C.

  7. Kim Q says:

    I am with Jenn- an “honors” program for kindergarteners??? It just seems so wrong. But I am glad that you found a great school for C to attend regardless.

  8. Clisby says:

    I also agree with Jenn. A magnet school is one thing; an honors kindergarten program is ridiculous. That shouldn’t start until 3rd grade at least.

  9. john m. says:

    Those classrooms look very “eh” to me. A few too many items purchased from the classroom supply store for my taste and WAY too cluttered. BUT — meeting and liking the older kids is really a great thing. But could you only tour at night? If you and/or Jon is able to tour during the day when the classes are active, you must imo.

  10. Scott says:

    Count me as someone is saddened by the thought of kindergarten entrance exams and honors classes, as well.

  11. SubWife says:

    Glad to find out that I am not the only one who finds entrance exams and especially honors programs appalling in such a young age.

  12. kathy says:

    They have test to see if you can get into kindergarten? Even our private schools do not have test. I was wondering why she is not going to a private school, didn’t her older siblings go to private school?

  13. geri a says:

    I am happy it turned out the way you wanted, and hope C has a great experience there. But yeah, honors kindergarten? Are the children aware there is a regular and honors kindergarten? Gosh, I hope not.

  14. Cath Young says:

    How does it work in terms of actually getting accepted to the school? Is it purely lottery? Are other factors taken into consideration? What factors are considered? How many candidates and how many acceptances overall and in the honors programs?

    Charter schools are often wonderful. They are often more like private schools than public ones since they have a selection process and most all of the children who go there have proactive parents. Pair that with testing to cherry pick the more able children, and yes, you get a better school. The social issue is that it often leaves the public schools from where these kids are might otherwise be going even more impoverished since the better families and kids are taken out. All this on tax payer money that could be used to improve schools that serve everyone in a district. Those who don’t like the state of the public schools can then use their own money to send their children to a better setting–private schools

  15. Clisby says:

    @Cath Young: From what Katie has said, this is a magnet school, not a charter school. I don’t know how it works in Tennessee, but in South Carolina those are two *very* different things. Here, a magnet school can set entrance requirements, require certain test scores, etc. A charter school can’t. In S.C. entrance to a charter school is entirely by lottery, although preference can be given to siblings and the children of teachers/staff members.

    What Katie has described sounds like what my school district calls a “partial magnet.” That is, any child who lives in the school’s attendance zone will be automatically accepted. Kids from outside the attendance zone can get in if there’s space. (I think this is by lottery but it might be first come, first served.) I don’t know how this special honors program Katie’s interested in works – I’ve never heard of that at any of the magnets around here. My school district has what I’d call “dedicated” magnets, with strict entrance requirements; and partial magnets, which serve all the zoned children but also accept children from outside the zone. We don’t have any schools that are part honors, part not. That seems odd to me.

  16. Alan says:

    I’m pretty sure after reading this post that Katie’s talking about the school my daughter went to for kindergarten through second grade. It’s a magnet school because, as Katie mentions in her article, the school backs up to a housing project. It’s a dual-track school — they have the “honors” track that’s open to any child from the local neighborhood (who automatically get into the school without testing) or to out-of-zone kids who qualify. It benefits the school by giving them the ability to acquire resources an inner-city school would otherwise not ordinarily have, and ALL the students at the school get to use those resources, magnet student or not.

    We took our daughter across town because not only was it the only elementary school offering daily arts education as part of the curriculum (i.e. orchestra and band, dance classes, drama, actual painting and sculpture, etc. etc.), they were also willing and able to individually track the kids in the magnet program so that our daughter was able to take reading and math classes at her level rather than being asked to work at the same level as her agemates. In some ways it was like getting private school for free, except with a more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse group of kids. Kindergarten and first grade were AMAZING. Second grade… let’s not go there. I hope the administration has gotten it together since that time several years ago. We moved out of town so I haven’t kept up with them.

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