Middle School Flux

When we moved into our house in 2005 I thought I knew all of the schools that my kids would be attending since we had no intentions of moving out of this house ever.  The kids elementary school was just up the street, the middle school a couple miles down the road the other way, and the high school somewhere in between.

That changed last year when the school district redrew the boundaries in our area.  Our neighborhood was moved to a different elementary school, and a different middle school, though we did stay with our previously assigned high school.  With Brendan being in 4th, going into 5th, grade when the boundaries were redrawn we were allowed to stay at our current home elementary school for his final year.  In addition they wrote in a clause which allowed me to keep Cameron and Kaylee in the same elementary school as well.

We weren’t so lucky with the middle school.  Our school district is really good about in-district transfers between schools but was firm that we couldn’t transfer into our original school because the entire reason for the boundary changes was because it was too full.  So we’ve spent the past 12 months getting used to the fact that Brendan would be attending a school that was previously unfamiliar to us.

We had our first opportunity to go into the middle school when Brendan picked out his saxophone.  The instruments were all being housed in the gym at his new school.  It was a nice looking school, and we felt we could get used to attending this school.  We were only so attached to the other because we’d spent more than 5 years anticipating his attendance there.  Besides, one of our other concerns was Brendan would be pulled away from his friends.  However, we eventually figured out that about half of his classmates would go to one school, and half to the other.  So from that regard it didn’t really matter which school he ended up at.

Slowly, we came to terms with the changes and started preparing ourselves for him attending the new school in the fall.  We did our research and found their website.  From there we found out what clubs they offer, and other things that he can get involved in which helped make him more excited for making the transition from elementary to middle school.

But now there’s a new fly in the ointment.  With the start of the second semester the school district has started sending out information in the mail to parents who would have a child transitioning into a new school in the fall.  One of the things we got was a list of informational meetings, one of which was regarding the International Baccalaureate program offered by one of our local middle schools.

We had never heard of this program and weren’t sure what the difference between it and the standard middle school curriculum was.  However, we are not ones to bypass something just because we don’t know what it is.  Unfortunately, Kaylee had a birthday party the same night as the informational meeting so I went to the meeting while Matt took responsibility for the birthday party.

I went into the meeting expecting not to be impressed.  I mean really, how much can they really change the curriculum for this program?  As it turns out the benefits for enrolling in the program aren’t curriculum based.  They explained that they follow the exact same curriculum that the other middle schools do so that no child in the district is at an advantage or disadvantage in that area.  The benefit of this program is that they take the information being taught a step further.  They apply the knowledge to real life.  What it boils down to is they teach the kids life and career skills as well as academic skills.

Well you can bet after hearing that I was totally on board with this.  Life and social skills are one of the areas that Brendan lacks in the most.  Putting him into a program where he’d be getting those lessons reinforced in the classroom as well as from his resource teachers seems like the perfect fit.

But it’s not that simple.  Well, it is actually a really simple process to transfer him from his home school to this other school, but there’s more to take into consideration than that.  First thing I did was come home and sell Matt on the concept.  As I suspected he was on board with me right away.  Next hurdle was Brendan.  He was actually more interested in the information than I expected him to be initially, but the one issue he had was the very one that I expected him to have…he’d have to leave his friends.

Because this middle school is across town.  Unless you choose to sign up for the program you’re not going to be going to this middle school if you live where we live.  We were adamant that this is entirely Brendan’s choice.  I had to move and transfer schools too many times to count when I was younger.  It’s not a lot of fun to try and make new friends when everyone has known each other forever.  But on the other hand if he’s ever going to change schools this would be the perfect time because anyone who is transferring into this school would be in the same boat that Brendan is.

Then we got our next piece of good news.  Understanding how hesitant parents and students would be to make the switch away from their home school, the school offers tours for parents and shadowing opportunities for students.  Brendan was extremely excited about that because one of his main concerns with middle school in general is not knowing what to expect this fall.  I believe his home school does a 5th grade tour day as well but it’s just a brief walkthrough of the school vs. a one on one interaction with a student and the opportunity to attend a couple of classes.

So Brendan’s tour is scheduled for tomorrow morning.  I did go ahead and sign us up for the tour as well, but truthfully we probably could have gotten by without that because this middle school is the one that I attended more than 20 years ago.  They didn’t have this IB program back when I went there, but other than that the school hasn’t changed one bit since I was a student there.  Walking through the front doors was like walking backward in time for me.  Memories of my own school days, both good and bad, flooded through me as I walked through the hallways of my old school.

Determined not to let my bias enter into the equation I decided to do some additional research on the program and get some additional input.  Both Brendan’s regular classroom teacher and his main resource teacher were able to give me a glowing recommendation for the program itself and were able to assure me that Brendan’s individual needs would be met easily.  His resource teacher also gave a big thumbs up to the team that would be taking over Brendan’s IEP in the fall should he choose to transfer.  It’s not that she’s ever said anything bad about the team we would be going to at his home school, but the emphasis she put on how great this team would be gave me a lot of confidence.

At this point it’s all in Brendan’s hands.  He doesn’t have too long to mull things over because the transfer forms have to be in to the district no later than February 15th.  We feel we know what’s right and best for Brendan, but ultimately he needs to make this decision for himself.

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