A parent perspective from Lynn Brownstein, whose son is in the 6th grade at Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City.
I attended an elementary public school in a suburban neighborhood, not far from New York City. There wasn’t much discussion surrounding where I went to school as the majority of kids attended public school. As such, my elementary school experience was far different from that of my son, Isadore, born in New York City in 2003; the year we moved to Jersey City.
At the time I knew very little about urban school situations but imagined that we had time to figure it out. Public, private, charter – all were options yet I had no idea which would be best-suited to my son. Over the years I have managed to accumulate a wealth of information and opinions concerning the various area school options. Friends and neighbors with children attending different schools have helped in this endeavor. As an educator myself, I have developed my own strong opinions about what I expect from a school for my child.
My son began his preschool education at the Hamilton Park Montessori School, which is a stone’s throw from our home. He thrived in the Montessori environment, which allowed him to progress at his own pace. As the school was growing, he was able to continue his education there throughout his elementary school years. We fully expected him to stay on thru the eighth grade. Yet this was not to be.
He was a part of the very first class in the school, which opened in 2006. The class was comprised of mixed-age children and there weren’t enough same age peers for the school to create a true middle school experience for him. During his fifth grade year, I began to question whether or not he would stay. If he were to leave, where would he go?
When it came to deciding which school would suit Isadore, I narrowed it down to either a charter or private school, as our neighborhood public school did not seem to be the right fit. I didn’t see the point in sending him to a different private school, as he was already receiving an excellent private school education. Instead I decided to enter the lottery for the Learning Community Charter School (LCCS) and make our decision based upon his acceptance.
We chose LCCS for several reasons. Primarily it has been the one school that has received consistently positive reviews from many parents in the community. I had heard mention of the devoted teachers and small class size, which were of utmost importance to me. I wanted a school with high parental involvement, made up of families committed to providing an education that fosters creativity and critical thinking, while at the same time adhering to certain academic standards. It was also reassuring to discover that so many families in our neighborhood have children attending LCCS. It would certainly be a comfort for Isadore to recognize familiar faces at his new school.
As it turns out, the transition from private school to LCCS has been a relatively smooth one for Isadore, regardless of the fact that the two schools are very different. He has adjusted to receiving grades, switching classes, and being one of 20 students his age instead of one of three. He has made new friends – some of whom live on the other end of our street. He even attended his first school dance. So far, it seems to be working out for him.
We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood that offers a variety of schooling options to meet the varying needs of families living in a multicultural environment. Options are important as every child is different and what works for one family might not work for another.