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January 22, 2016

The Scoop on “School Choice”

School Choice season is here! With just over a week to go before those Choice forms are due on January 29, folks might be feeling confused, overwhelmed or downright frustrated with this process and how to pick a school that’s a good fit for you kiddo. And then once that Choice form is sent out into the world, you wait and hope all that work results in your child actually being able to attend your top choice.

Despite all of us needing to send our children to schools, it’s hard to sort out what it all means—boundaries, enrollment zones, charter, innovation, traditional… definitely enough to make your head spin!

Let’s start off with the types of schools we have here in Stapleton. And let me start by saying that we are incredibly fortunate that whatever we choose here in terms of type, our schools are high quality. There’s a best fit and there’s no perfect school, but in general the schools we have access to are quality blue and green schools (don’t know what blue/green means? You should! See more here! ). And that’s not something we should take for granted— sections of our city have a dearth of quality schools and parents are fighting to get their kids a quality education.

So, quality schools- check. Now, back to types… Our elementary schools are all traditional or innovation schools and charters don’t join the mix until middle school. DPS manages and operates both traditional and innovation schools—innovation schools have been granted certain areas for flexibility in terms of calendar, professional development, school day, curriculum, etc. Charter schools are operated independently, so they have more autonomy and are actually operated by their own Board of Directors. All schools, however, are public schools and are accountable to the DPS Board and must meet criteria established by the district. If any of these schools don’t meet expectations, they are beholden to DPS and any failing school is at-risk for shutting down. This variety is great because we are lucky to have a lot of different types of programs in the area!

In my opinion, folks should look more at the specific programs and underlying philosophies of the schools they are looking at more than whether it’s charter, innovation, etc. And then it’s really a matter of priorities—what’s important to you? If convenience is going to trump all then the location of a school matters most (and convenience is a serious reality for all those with both parents working!). Then, ask yourself questions like…does your child need a lot of structure or thrive in a more flexible environment? Are you looking at programs based on the quality of the Special Education services?   Do you want a school that is supporting our city to close the achievement gap?

Think about your priorities and then really take some time to do research! Just from my own experience working at a local charter school network, there is a LOT floating around but what our schools do, don’t do and what they’re all about. 90% of the stuff I hear is either totally inaccurate or really doesn’t tell the whole story—so do your own research and figure things out for yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. I have a running list of tough questions, if you need ideas!

Curious about which schools are in Stapleton?  Here is more info.

Last word… Stapleton isn’t the only option. We are fortunately to live in a city where you can Choice ANYWHERE… have you heard of Roots Elementary in Park Hill? They’ve totally flipped school on its head and it is awesome! Ashley is right next door and has been working incredibly hard to be a successful turnaround under great leadership (Rumor is you MIGHT get an ECE spot—you know that’s not happening in Stapleton!).

So… choose wisely, but when that letter comes, don’t lose sight of the fact that no matter where your kiddo ends up, they’ll get something great. And… there’s always next year.

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