My little darling started school yesterday. Real school. All day school. She’s only 4 (as of Saturday, rainbow birthday party pics are forthcoming), but here in Washington, DC, the public schools start at age 3, though we didn’t take advantage last year.
Now a bit about the school system in DC. (Anyone totally uninterested in DC schools, skip this entire paragraph. And then you’ll jump right to my daughter’s newfound fame.) The DC public school system problems are too big to cover in a post about marshmallows. I will say, the schools are one reason many move to Maryland and Virginia. We decided to stick it out in DC. Sadly, the best public schools are in neighborhoods where homes start around one million bucks. Not in our budget. Private schools in this area are between 20 and 30 grand a year. Not in our budget. In Washington DC, you may theoretically send your child to any public school, even out of your neighborhood. But priority is given to neighborhood kids, and then you and hundreds or thousands of parents enter their kids in a lottery for the remaining spots. The best public schools have very few spots. We had no luck. Enter choice number 2: Charter schools. DC has many. Charter schools are essentially public schools (same structure, same calendar) that are privately run. Like all schools everywhere, there are great charter schools and less than great charter schools. You do the research, apply, and your kid enters the lottery. The best charter schools have a ridiculous number of applications, and getting in on the lottery is like, well…. winnng the lottery. Of all our applications, we were accepted to only one, a brand spanking new charter school. The newness makes this high risk, but I have high hopes for this one… I’m pretty impressed so far. One downside of our charter school scenario is that the school is about a twenty minute commute each way. Sigh. And the public school for our neighborhood is right next to our house. Really, we live next door. Each morning as we pile in the car for our commute in rush hour traffic, that proximity will taunt me. Sigh again.
On the first day of school, the Mayor chooses a few schools to visit. Of the couple hundred DC schools, he chose my daughter’s. She and all of her new classmates sat in a circle with the teacher, dozens of parents, politicos, TV cameras and reporters packed in behind them, as the Mayor of DC read them a book (though he did more ad libbing than reading, and got more than a few chuckles from the parents). Then on my way home after picking her up, I get a call from the school. Apparently a reporter snapped my daughter’s picture while she was napping on her cot, and they’d like my permission to publish said picture in The Washington Post. My first response, of course, was “Oh my god, she NAPPED? How did you get her to nap?” So for my daughter’s first day of school–ever!–she hung with the mayor and got her pic in the Post. Pretty memorable.
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