I've briefly mentioned a couple times that Callum is changing schools this year, but I haven't gone into a lot of detail. I have a couple personal policies about where I draw the line as far as protecting my kids' privacy when writing about them online, and one of those lines is that I try not to share identifying details about exactly where they spend their time, which also means not sharing very specific details about their schools. That makes this topic hard to write about, and means that I can't go into a lot of detail about the exact reasoning of the decision, but I'm going to try to cover it anyway.
(I will also say that this was a very complicated decision for us with a lot of complex factors involved, and I am more than happy to discuss it in detail individually, so if you DO want to know more, feel free to reach out. I have also learned a lot about the Denver public school system, which has been very helpful.)
Anyway! The gist is that Callum attended a private preschool for the previous two school years. It was a small school with only a few kids in his class, and he had a wonderful teacher (the same for both years). The school was an obvious choice for us because it offered a particular educational element that was important to us personally, and it was always our plan to keep him there for his full three years of preschool, and then look elsewhere starting at kindergarten, because at that point the private school would just be too small (only a couple kids per grade in the whole school). The school could be frustrating to work with on the administrative side, as is common with small schools, but Callum loved his teacher (and so did we), he was happy and thriving at the school, and we really enjoyed the community.
And then in the middle of the year last year, we learned about a preschool program in a nearby public school, and decided to apply just to see if Callum might happen to get a spot. We put him into the Denver Public Schools lottery for a slot back in January and then kind of buried our heads in the sand and did not discuss the decision, figuring it was a waste of time until we found out if he got a slot (there is more demand for public preschool in Denver than there is supply, so a slot was far from guaranteed).
Then, in March, we were notified that Callum had indeed drawn a slot at the public school, and we had to make a decision. We did a bunch of research, including extensive observation and conversations with the principal and teachers at the public school, and ultimately decided that it seemed like a really great school that would suit Callum very well, even though it did not offer the particular educational element that was the draw for us at his previous, private preschool. There are a few public elementary schools in our area that seem really great, and we feel lucky to have the options that we do, but this school in particular really stood out to us for its approach to teaching and to community, and for the incredibly high quality of its teachers. It is not our neighborhood school, which means that if we want to keep him there next year, we will have to put him back into the lottery for kindergarten, because DPS does a fresh lottery at each "transition" year (kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade). But as an existing student of this school, he will have priority in the lottery after all the neighborhood kids are placed, so he has a high chance of getting to stay there, which was a major reason why we decided to take the slot this year rather than waiting a year and trying again.
Deciding to change schools was hard! Callum's old preschool program was so small that we were worried about the effect on the school of losing a student, and we also loved his teacher there and hated to lose out on a year with her, plus we were concerned about losing the particular educational element (which we are trying to make up for on our own now, which I have faith that we can do but definitely creates a bit more of a challenge), and we loved the community and had lots of friends there, plus Callum was just so happy and relaxed at that school, so used to it, so familiar, it gave him a lot of confidence, and we felt bad shaking things up in that way. But, we knew it was the right decision, so we powered through the hard part and now the transition is more or less done. And we've been managing lots of playdates with his friends (and ours) from his old school, so hopefully we'll be able to maintain those connections despite the distance.
Callum has been nervous about the new school all summer, but back to school night helped, and on his first day he did great. He ran ahead of me into the building, showed me where his classroom was, looked through all the cubbies until he found the one with his name written on it, proudly hung up his backpack, and cheerfully said goodbye. When I picked him up after school, he was bubbling over with enthusiasm about how he liked his teachers and his classmates, he played with the dollhouse and the water table, he ate lunch in the cafeteria, he read books with his teachers, and he drew pictures of himself and Annika. When I asked him what his favorite thing was he said "everything!" and when I asked him if he was excited to go back the next day he shouted "yes!" So, seems like a good start. Yesterday was similarly easy, and today's drop-off as well... plus yesterday at pickup his teachers came over to tell me how great he is, how sweet and fun, and how much they love having him in the class, so that was really nice to hear. It's also been reassuring for me because the teachers have talked to me about very specific things about him and described his day in great detail, and it's easy to see that they are already getting to know him well after just two days, and that's lovely to see.
So overall, it's been a win! We will see how the rest of the year goes, but I have the deep-down conviction that we made the right choice, so hopefully that will help us get over any bumps in the road.
And here he is on his first day. My big, brave boy.
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