The Pros and Cons of School of Choice and Open Enrollment
My decision to enroll my child in another school in our school district (Open Enrollment) was a difficult one. Long story short… My son was diagnosed with an ASD at a very early age and was pretty far behind compared to other preschoolers when it came to socialization skills. Through exhaustive research, I found a school in my district I thought could help him more than his “neighborhood school” and chose the Open Enrollment option.
The education/well-being of your child should always be the first factor considered when selecting School of Choice or Open Enrollment. That said, there are many other factors to also consider before you decide on the best school for your child. I can now see the red flags that I didn’t even think of when making the decision to move my child to a different school in our district years ago.
Factors Outside of Education to Consider in Regards to Open Enrollment or School of Choice
- Your Neighborhood Kids - You may have kids in your neighborhood that your kids like to play with. But, if they don’t go to school together, the relationships are not the same as they would be if they all went to the same school. My kids still enjoy playing with their friends down the street but those kids are naturally more tied with the other kids in our neighborhood that attend their school.
- The Open Enrollment School’s Neighborhood Kids – This point piggybacks on the previous point. The summer months can be rough. The kids are longing to run outside and play with their school friends like they did all school year at recess. Your kids may really miss their friends during the summer because they don’t get to see them that much from June through August. They would love the opportunity to run into them around the neighborhood. And, although you intend to have numerous playdates, it just never happens with all the busy summer schedules. It requires too much planning during a season where plans need to be more “last minute.” It’s just not as convenient as a situation where your child could just walk down the street to play with their school friends.
- The Travel - You may think it’s no big deal at first… The 10 or 15 minute car trip to and from a school outside of your neighborhood every Monday through Friday can really add up! Factor in a backpack or lunch left at home, after school activity, sports practice, or any school volunteer work you may do and you can be racking up time and miles on numerous “extra” trips back and forth to school! When my daughter was in half-day kindergarten and my son was full-day regular school, we’d sometimes clock six plus trips back and forth between the school and home.
- School of Choice and Open Enrollment Friendships - This next point is rather tough to control or even foresee. Open enrollment and school of choice is more common than you might think. Some families may opt to do open enrollment because they are favoring a certain elementary school, for example. But, when middle school years roll around, they may opt to switch back to their home school for whatever reason, e.g. going back to work and needing to take advantage of the bus services, etc… However, this is really tough on the kids because they have developed strong friendships over the past six years. Breaking them up is difficult.
- Relationship Building - One last point I want to mention is that when you’re opting for open enrollment or school of choice, you’re getting a late start in the relationship building phase. So many of these families have lived near each another for the five years already before kindergarten begins. Their children have all played together and they all know and trust one another very well. Then you come in and want a piece of the fun but nobody knows who the heck you are. It takes a while to establish relationships, and it will require a bit of work on your part to set up playdates and get-togethers so that everyone can get to know one another. You and/or your child may feel like an “outsider” in and out of the classroom in many ways even if you live only a couple of miles away.
Knowing what I know now, I still would not change how we’ve done the past five years. The school we chose has been absolutely fantastic. But, on the same note, I can honestly say that our decisions were made just on the “nut and bolts” educational decision and not the social ones. So much so that we’re heavily considering moving to be closer to our childrens’ new friends and also for the convenience.
The educational factors when selecting School of Choice or Open Enrollment are often crystal clear. The social factors are the ones that can prove to be challenging.