The kindergarten lottery system starts in March, but this year is just slightly different. We have to choose five schools as potential places we'd want to send X-man, not just three, like in previous years. Picking five schools when there are eleven seems ridiculous, particularly when there are only four, 30-minute tour spots available and one open house (which we'll be gone for). So, outside of the tour days, I've been trying to set up private tours at the other schools that I haven't had a chance to visit yet.
MacTroll and I visited Robeson Elementary School in SW Champaign. It's one of the larger elementary schools in the system, and moderately close to our house. We know three or four families that have children who attend there, and in 2009 our business purchased some kindergarten carpets and pillow seats for kids to sit on for the school. It's in a quiet neighborhood, surrounded by Robeson park, which connects to some short bike trails. The community around the school is pretty affluent.
Walking into the school we met a few other families waiting for the tour, including a couple of X-man's friends. Right now, Robeson is a 4-strand school. That means they have four classrooms at each grade level. Next year they'll only have three strands, so the number of students will go down. It's no question that they could use the space. Certain activities and special needs activities are taking place in the hallway. Having special rooms for those kinds of learning interactions is definitely important. But it is a big school. It feels big, open, and quite yellow on the inside. The students went about their day quite happily involved in the learning process. We got to sit in and listen to some of the kids enrolled in the Strings program warm up their instruments. We saw the library and the kindergarten rooms.
The principal was very nice, but left it up to parents to approach her with questions, which is hard, when you're all not quite sure what you're getting into. The kindergarten rooms no longer have centers at Robeson. And kindergarten students eat during the very last lunch period, so they don't have to rush. The school day starts at 7:50 a.m., so the school feeds the kids some kind of morning snack in order accommodate this late eating period. Since the school day ends at 2:05 p.m.
Overall, we found Robeson to be much less -- cozy-- than a Carrie Busey or a South Side. It felt more like Barkstall.
I'm starting to understand that when picking a school, it's beginning to be more about teachers and environment and knowing that you feel comfortable that an administration will work with you.
In regards to Robeson, I know my friends who go there have a child with severe allergies and have worked hand in hand with the school to educate them about the seriousness of food allergies.