school choice

There are some that would say that we are lucky to live in the Twin Cities where our options for elementary and secondary education are plentiful and diverse.  Too much choice isn’t always a good thing.  Take our situation, we always assumed that Patrick and Michael would spend years K-8 at our parish’s  Catholic school.  In recent years, however, the enrollment has declined (73 kids in grades K-8) and we find ourselves asking the same question each Spring; “Will the school open in the Fall?  Is this  the best option for our kids?”  Well Michael made it to the end.  He will be graduating 8th grade this year and will be beginning High School at a Catholic school in Mpls.  Patrick is another story.

I believe that the demise of the inner city Catholic school is directly related to the multitude of options available in the public schools today.  Pick a language and there is an immersion school.  From technology to fine arts there is either a magnet or a charter school that offers it.  Many of these schools offer the small environment and discipline that is a hallmark of Catholic education but with a price tag of zero.    For many the choice is a no brainer, which brings me back to our dilemma.

Patrick’s best friend is not returning to the school next year.  Assuming that enrollment doesn’t increase for his grade, Patrick will be the only boy in the 6th grade next year.  Currently, he is in a merged classroom with another grade that has plenty of boys, however, Patrick does not get along with them. 

As a result, Patrick is asking to switch to another school.  We will not leave our Parish community, so another Catholic school is out of the question.  The neighborhood elementary would be ideal as it is also a K-8, however, Patrick is not interested in attending the same school as Emondre.  It would be difficult for them to be  at the same school as they are in the same grade which would make for too much “quality” time together  ie. same sports teams etc.  At this point both boys need their own identity and social circles.

So the search for a school is on.  The date for apps to SPPS was March 6th, however, we can still apply but are probably going to be wait listed to Patrick’s first choice.  Worst case scenario, he could do one year at Emondre’s school and then transfer the following year. 

God I hate having to make this decision.  Our school just may be the only Catholic elementary school operating with less than 100 students.  I don’t know at  what point schools make the decision to close.  What is the cut off number that defines “too few students?”  I would imagine that it is defined by individual families, thus one of the reasons that enrollment is declining. 

The decision to leave will not be made lightly.  Hopefully, Patrick can keep mum about our deliberations so I don’t have to justify our actions to other parents or God forbid the prinicipal.  I plan to pray a lot for the wisdom to make the decision that will best prepare Patrick for the future.  The middle school years can be difficult enough without adding multiple transtions to them.

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