Today is the day that MPS, Racine Unified and other southeastern Wisconsin public school districts begin enrolling kids for the 2011-12 school year.
In Milwaukee, the three-choice enrollment runs through Jan. 28 and allows parents and students to list three school choices. Nearly everyone, 99 percent, will get into one of those three schools and last year 95 percent actually got into the first choice school.
Considering the many options in a large urban district — MPS has nearly 200 schools — that gives families flexibility and a measure of control. They can choose from one of nine Montessori programs, for example, a Waldorf school, language immersion programs and more.
This is nothing like when I went to grade school. Of course, at the dawn of the 1970s most kids went to their neighborhood schools, although desegregration had already begun to send kids — especially African-American kids — far afield in buses.
There was no question that I would go to the public school in walking distance of my home. The same was true of junior high. My grade school fed into a few JHS options in the area but students couldn’t choose (one was attended by John Cassisi, who was then on TV’s “Fish,” with Abe Vigoda!) . We crossed our fingers and breathed a sigh of relief when I got into the closer one, which my brother was attending.
Luckily, both were good schools and I was fortunate enough to have a great magnet high school in my neighborhood, that accepted me, too.
Times have changed and our homes as adults aren’t organized as they often were when we were kids, in households with one parent working outside the house. Having mom home at the end of the school day made neighborhood schools workable from that standpoint.
Nowadays, sending our kids to the school in our neighborhood isn’t automatically as convenient as it once was, even if that affects the way we think of our neighborhoods and our schools and alters the reality of parental involvement in schools for some.
Also, back then there were Montessoris, language schools, Waldorfs and the like, but they were almost never public schools and they were out of the reach of many, if not most, working class families.
This, of course, is just one of the many changes in school landscapes over the past few decades.