By Jill Simonian
Whether you’re looking at public, charter, private and/or magnet schools, options for enrolling children can be overwhelming. School enrollment is often considered one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing experiences among Los Angeles parents. As parents are aware, enrollment for public and charter schools and/or acceptance or denial to private schools is underway right now.
How do you get control and take as much stress out of the process as possible? Do what you can, stay calm and accept the rest. Here are a few scenarios and explanations that might help ease the pain:
Problem: I don’t know much about my resident and nearby schools. How do I find out if they offer a right fit for my child?
Parents, myself included, can be intimidated by the unknown. It’s time to do our homework and get as much information as possible. First, don’t be intimidated to contact the school site and request a tour, even if the school is public. Seeing the classrooms, teachers and children in action will give you an immediate sense of whether the school is right for you. Ask neighborhood friends for opinions but also check School-Ratings and California Department of Education’s Academic Performance Index (API) to see how your prospective schools rank based on academic performance, facility and achievement levels. Note that these sites only account for public schools in California. Also, consider what is most important to your family and what kind of education aligns with your values and expectations, such as diversity, sports programs, accelerated learning, arts curriculum and classroom size.
Problem: I don’t care for the public school assigned to our neighborhood and am not able to opt for private school. What options do I have?
Charter schools are considered a hybrid of public and private schools and are free of charge but often involve application processes and limited space. Acceptance is sometimes based on lottery. If you’re seeking to change to another school inside of Los Angeles Unified School District, you may apply for an intradistrict transfer based on a few things: 1) If you’re seeking a school that offers advanced studies (GATE or specific arts program), 2) If a parent or caregiver lives or works full-time in another area that makes another school more convenient for your family. Although it can be complicated, parents also have an option to request a transfer out of LAUSD and into a neighboring school district, for example, Santa Monica-Malibu, Beverly Hills, Culver City, etc., by citing full-time, parental employment in the desired district, meaning it is more convenient for the parent to drop off and pick up the child at a school that is near work.
Problem: We applied to private schools and only received wait-list options. Can I do anything further to get my kid into the school we want?
According to Los Angeles private school expert Cristina Simon of educational resource Beyond the Brochure, parents should act fast and consider the following tips: 1) Call the admissions director at your wait-listed schools and communicate that you are “ready” to send a deposit immediately and enroll your child should a spot open up, 2) Do not pester and/or get angry with staff once you’ve called. In other words, be patient and respectful, as difficult as it may be. 3) Consider reaching out to an educational consultant if you’re out of options. 4) Consider enrolling your child at your local resident public or charter school and reapplying the next year. Sometimes, it takes a year or two for private-school spots to open up.
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor and appears every Wednesday on CBS Los Angeles’ News at 5pm. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.