A few years ago, although my children were happy at their school, my gut told me it was time to make a change.
I decided to use the school choice system here in Denver. At that time, my twin boys were attending an elementary school, but we weren’t content with the direction the school was headed and felt like the needs of our children were not being met to their fullest potential.
During their second-grade year, I decided to take advantage of school choice and apply to a charter school where my children could stay through eighth grade, if they were doing well. I was a bit anxious about the thought of my kids leaving their former school and starting over at a new one.
I am a former elementary school teacher and was working as an educational consultant who assisted many families in helping them make decisions about picking the right schools for their children. I had visited many schools in the Denver metropolitan area, both public and private, and was interested in Highline Academy Charter School, which met much of the criteria I was looking for.
I toured the school several times, made an appointment to observe a third grade classroom, and ran through a long list of questions to the admissions director.
I yearned for an educational environment that valued high expectations, racial diversity, rigorous academics, character development and a passionate staff that was truly invested in each child. Best of all, I liked its autonomy.
So did a lot of other parents because the twins were wait-listed after we submitted an application.
We crossed our fingers and hoped that spots would become available later that summer. No luck. I threw in the towel and decided I would use school choice again for the following school year.
The twins started third-grade at our neighborhood school when I received a phone call a few weeks in that spots were available for them.
It’s three years later and our youngest child now attends the school and while no school is perfect, we are thrilled with the education they receive.
Families are lucky to have a variety of options across Denver if their neighborhood schools aren’t right for their children. One size doesn’t fit all, and for my kids, I want something that conforms to who they are.
My advice to others is to consider the school’s mission, the goals and values of your family, and what your children need. Do your homework by visiting the schools and don’t be shy about asking the questions that are important to you. Then, be patient and hang in there. The power of school choice has paid dividends for my family.
Kerri Barclay is a blogger and education consultant in Denver, Colorado. She and her husband have three children in the Denver Public Schools.