The Enrollment Fair

Now that the IEP is completed I have to get serious about touring more schools.

Here in San Francisco the IEP team only determines the service model – what type of class that you can list on the enrollment application.  The actual school placement decision is done via a lottery.

The content coordinator suggested that we list as many schools as possible.  I thought that seven was the limit, but this year there are spaces for ten schools, and an extra form to use to list more than that.  There aren’t that many schools that are going to be appropriate.  I’m going to have to look at schools that are further away than I was hoping for, but still within the city.

I went to the annual enrollment fair.   It was held in the concourse building where they hold trade shows.  All the schools in the city had tables.  Each school had the principal and parent volunteers there.

It was incredibly crowded.  Like shoulder to shoulder, only the pushy ones get through kind of jam packed.  The consensus among the other Special Ed Moms I know is that the whole event was drink inducing.

I kind of forget that all parents have some stress about kindergarten.  And because our city’s process seems to be designed to be chaotic, I think parents here (and likely in other cities with lottery systems) have a level of additional stress.

I attended a workshop for enrolling in special ed and it was some what informative.  The district as a whole is trying to move from a programs model to a service delivery model.  (Way to be late to the IDEA party!).  Which is good, but it is clear that they don’t know exactly what to do.

They included the special ed enrollment information in the general enrollment guidebook.  Previously it has been a separate document.  It does send a better message to have all the information together.  But the information that is there is still lacking.

I asked how the lottery actually worked for SDC (Special Day Class) students.  All other students have the same lottery process, with a few tie-breakers to give some students preferential enrollment.   They said that the process and tie-breakers are now the same for SDC students.  That doesn’t really help us, we don’t qualify for any of them.

I also asked where we can get actual enrollment data, like is available for the general ed students.  They said that we could go to the educational placement center.  I’ll be going there soon.

I visited a few school’s tables.   Only one school had anything about special ed prominently displayed.  It was a poster with pictures of students from their SDC class with their new ipads!

I was directed to speak with the principal about SDC classes at every table.  Once I told them my interests, a few just kind of said Yes, we have an SDC class.   It was like pulling teeth to get any specifics.   Two principals in particular did seem well informed and had a lot to say, one even had the school’s speech therapist on hand.   I could just tell the difference between principals who considered the SDC classes part of their community from their attitudes.

Kindergarten Obsession – Questions for school tours

I’ve been compiling questions, and I have way too many.  This list does not even include things like details about the teacher and classroom, the parking situation and probably a dozen other things.  But it is a start.

  1. What are the procedures for drop off and pick up?
  2. What time does yard supervision begin? End?
  3. What is the school’s philosophy and practice regarding discipline?
  4. How many recesses do kindergarteners get, and how for how long?
  5. Are SDC students included for recess?
  6. If so, how are integrated play opportunities facilitated on the playground?
  7. How long is lunch? Is there also snack time?
  8. Are SDC students included for lunch in the cafeteria?
  9. How does the school handle supervision during lunch and recess?
  10. Does the school have assemblies? How often?
  11. What kind of school-wide activities are there?  (including music, PE, etc)
  12. What are the before- and after-school childcare options?
  13. Do SDC students have the opportunity to participate in the above?
  14. Where do pull-outs for speech therapy and OT take place in the school?  Do they have an office or dedicated area for working with students?
  15. How often do fire drills and earthquake drills take place?  How are SDC students prepared?
  16. How does this school/class encourage and monitor students’ progress toward meeting grade-level standards?  How does this apply to SDC students?
  17. What standard testing is done?
  18. Is there regular reverse mainstreaming scheduled in the classroom?
  19. Do they do disability awareness lessons for students without disabilities?

Thanks to all my awesome mentors from Support for Families and this great article with questions from Bonnie Sayers.

Getting ready for the first tour

We have our first tour this week of a K-2 SDC (special day class)

The process of touring is kind of slow going.  We have to take a general tour and an additional tour of the K-2 SDC for almost every school.   The general tours are scheduled in advance, but for the SDC tours I have to get the teachers to call me back.    Many of the schools won’t schedule anything until October.

I realize that October is just a few days away.  But it just feels like the window is closing in so quickly.

Even with the appointment we have this week, they are only giving us half an hour to observe the class.  I get that they can’t let us hang around all day (though I would like to ). But it sure doesn’t seem like much time.

The teacher also told me that if I had any questions I should call him after class.  So in other words, sit down and shut up for our 30 minutes.  I do understand that the teacher can’t give us a lot of attention during class.  Maybe if the tour was longer it could spill over into some of the free time and then he could answer a question or two.

Part of me wishes that I could take R. to see the classrooms and schools.  Of course that would be difficult on so many levels.  And it seems that even the general ed students are not welcome at the tours, so there is no precedence for it.