Monday, June 05, 2000

New kids on campus

An interesting thing about having children in special education is that you never can tell what school they're going to be in. Instead of their home school, the kids are bounced to whatever campus happens to be hosting their particular program that year. Ironic, of course, that the children who most need stability, structure, and predictability in their school environment are the least likely to get it. In our district, anyway, it's often not decided until a few weeks before classes start where a child will end up, much less with whom.

My kids have never gone to our neighborhood school, though my daughter has been lucky enough to stay in the same cross-town school for five years. My son has been in two different schools, but for the last three years has been in the same school as his sister. That school has come to feel like home to us--the kids know their way around the building, I know my way around the system. I've let myself get more and more involved in the Home and School Association in the hope that this would be the place where my two would continue through their elementary years.

But now, there's talk of moving them both. And, surprisingly enough, it's to our own neighborhood school. No more explaining to people why they go to the school they do. No more driving cross-town for playdates. The sheer normalcy of it is exciting. We drive by the building every day now, thinking about it. It's a nice-looking, all-American kind of school, two stories, vaguely colonial architecture, welcoming sign out front. Different from the school they've been going to. On a main street instead of a side street. Next to a restaurant instead of an apartment building. Across from a church instead of electrical towers. Bigger, but more contained. Will my kids like it? Will the kids there like them? The first day of school is a summer away, but we're already feeling the anticipation and anxiety.

Them, and me too. I wouldn't say I've made a lot of friends at that other school in that other neighborhood, but at least the people are familiar to me and with me. I'm comfortable there. The school my son went to before joining his sister was a school I emphatically didn't feel comfortable at. It was in one of the ritziest neighborhoods in town, and the moms were all well-toned and Spandex clad with big hair and good tans, and I'm this little schlumpy thing with two special-ed kids and no darn time to sell tickets to the fashion-show fund-raiser. I couldn't get my guy out of that school fast enough.

What if the moms at the new school aren't nice? What if the Home and School is cliquish, and has all sorts of rules I won't know? The moms there will be my neighbors, so I truly do have to live with them. And what about the principal? I pretty much had the old one figured out, and now I'll have to get to be known all over again. Hard as it is on the kids to be bopped around from school to school, it may be harder on moms like me, who try to get involved and get to know the staff and be part of the school scene. I've been promised that if we make this move, the kids won't have to move again until junior high. Don't think I could take any more than that.

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