Thursday, August 19, 2004

Update: School Options

It's been a dizzying 72 hours. (Has it really only been that long since it was decided that H. could live with us??) After discussing various school options early Tuesday morning, the boyfriend went to work investigating our best options. We've looked at four private schools. Although I have nothing against public schools (and H. has attended public schools for most of his school career), the public schools here are really in pretty bad shape. We agreed after much discussion that if one of our chosen private schools didn't pan out, we'd homeschool.

The school that's considered the 'best' private school here is way out of our league financially. Eighth grade runs $12,400...and that's just for tuition. But we have other issues with this school, besides the financial one. It's a bit uptight for our tastes--okay, a lot uptight for our tastes. They have maybe one or two black teachers, but we live on an island with a predominantly black population. We feel that sends the wrong message, regardless of the fact that H. is one-half African-American. It's where all the wealthy, white expats send their children. We'd prefer he be in a more egalitarian atmosphere. They offer financial aid, but they told the boyfriend that there's no guarantee of aid (even though many qualify) and it would take at least two weeks to find out if we've qualified. H. would have to supply a math recommendation, a reading recommendation and go before the review board. It sounded like a lot of pressure for a kid who suddenly finds himself living 4,000 miles from (until now) his support network. And the fact that the boyfriend and I couldn't sleep last night (I was having financial aid nightmares) confirmed for us this morning that it's simply not a good option, for many reasons.

We checked into the Montessori school. It's also quite pricey (about $8K for everything). But it's way out on the east end of the island and just wouldn't work logistically when we both work full-time and have only one car.

On Tuesday boyfriend went downtown to check out the Catholic school. He said it seemed, well, sort of okay. But he was pretty turned off by the surroundings. It's in the heart of a not-good neighborhood downtown (there's a brothel next door), even though it's just a few blocks from the main shopping district. And it's a concrete jungle--not a blade of grass in sight. You can imagine--coming from Portland, OR--how that's a big turn-off...and our island is very lush. Even so, it has to be seriously viewed as one of our options. Tuition is $4,100. It's about a 10-minute walk from my office (ideally, I'll drop H. on my way to work and he'll walk to my office at the end of his schoolday to ride home with me). It's two blocks from the public library.

This morning boyfriend called the Episcopal school, which is even closer to my office. We've heard good things about this school. Tuition is $4,700. I walked over at lunchtime to pick up an application (it's only a 5-minute walk). I completed the form, and the boyfriend and H. came by my office about half an hour before I finished work to pick up the application and walk to the school so they could both take a look. This one looks better. Things are pretty old here, so many of the schools look different than what we're used to in the States. But it has a nice little grassy courtyard area and it's tucked away on a side street. It's a bit of a borderline neighborhood but better than the Catholic school's location. Boyfriend and H. delivered the application, paid the $25 application fee and the admissions secretary gave H. a testing date. He's scheduled for the three-hour test on Monday at 9 am. When the boyfriend said it would be three hours, I exclaimed, "Three hours!" to which H. immediately quipped, "That's what I said..." :) They told us eighth grade is pretty full and it will be up to the principal's discretion to decide if he's admitted. Please hold a good thought for us--this is our first choice. Classes begin September 2. (All of the other schools we checked out begin class on Monday.)

In the meantime, I'm now officially on vacation until August 31. We fly to St. Croix tomorrow at noon. The airline we're on has small planes that allow one of the passengers to sit in the co-pilot seat. We're going to see if we can secure that seat for H. (He said, "I won't touch anything." To which I replied, "I should hope not!") We return late Sunday morning. (It's only a 15-minute flight.)

We'll be spending the weekend at a beachfront motel in Fredericksted with some other musicians and a promoter. We're all flying over together. The band will be playing an outdoor jazz show tomorrow evening on the waterfront and then in a club on Saturday night. We plan to really, really relax and enjoy our little family getaway before H. has to buckle down and put his brain to work on Monday morning.

We thought we were taking vacation time from our jobs to give H. a great vacation...and we're still trying to do that, to a degree. It's just extra sweet that we can have this quality time with him as we all make this big transition and right before he begins attending a new school. (He asked on the way home from my job today if 8th grade is 'different' here. I assured him it's very much like 8th grade in stateside schools.) I'm really looking forward to the next 10 days. (The two of them have already had 10 days together.)

Enjoy your weekend! More later...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Have a great, relaxing time! And I'm sending good thoughts out for the school. My sisters and I were hometaught when we lived on Saipan, and that was mostly because even the private school there was pretty behind US standards. I hope this one works, for H, and for you!


someday I'll get a blogger account...

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How exciting, Marilyn! I'm sure you and the bf must be glowing over H's arrival and subsequent "staying." I just read all about it, and am thrilled for you both, what a great experience for all involved.

Good luck on the school front. I know you'll find something that works for you guys, but it is stressful getting from point A to point B. I'll keep my fingers crossed for H and his exams, too.


3:45 AM  

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