We originally moved to Boca Raton, Florida for a job opportunity Phil couldn’t pass up. Now, we’re moving to New York with the same explanation. The reason Phil has been in New York for two weeks, back to Florida for a week, then off to New York for another two weeks is because he’s taken a new job—working with my father in Queens, New York. There’s a lot going on in our family now, health issues—not my father, not Phil, but family—and we want to be there, to be close to the ones we love (Phil’s parents live in Queens; my dad is in Manhasset. All our cousins are in New York, not to mention Smelly, Alexandra, and Dulce). My father is looking to spend less time at the office, and who better to learn the family business than the father of his grandchildren? Phil was actually born to do this job. He officially began in February and neither he, nor my father, could be happier. My dad loves Phil. Loves.
So, where in New York exactly? Manhattan? Brooklyn? Bayside? Long Island? Westchester? Or perhaps a suburb in New Jersey? In coming to a decision—we’re still making one!—there were two factors that bubbled to the top of our priorities list: the school district and the commute. First we looked at Phil’s commute to Queens, no where near, not even close, to a subway or train line, so towns like Port Washington, Long Island, were out of the question. We considered Rye, New York, but again, having to take two bridges to work killed that deal. Same goes for Jersey. Then there was the option of Manhattan. We were both on the fence about taking our suburban kids who, up until this point, have lived with land and stairs, a yard, riding bikes and playing tag, as I watched them from a kitchen window. In truth, I think the adjustment back to city life would be harder on me than them. Unless we had an unlimited budget, I think Manhattan would be too hard with kids. Nothing’s impossible, but when I imagine our future, I see my own past—a childhood of catching inchworms off trees, of picking buds off bushes, of having a playroom and piano that was our own private world of make believe. Still, we were on the fence about it, so we looked into New York City schools.
To be considered for the Gifted and Talented schools, the children would have had to be tested a year ago, with a New York City address, obviously not an option. Fine. But here’s what’s not fine: they would both be required to skip kindergarten completely. Because of birthday cutoffs in New York City schools (which includes Brooklyn and all of Queens), a five year old child cannot turn six years old at any time during the year of enrollment. For example, if a five year old is entering kindergarten in September 2012, s/he may not turn six years old at any time in 2012. So, Lucas and Abigail would be required to skip kindergarten. Studies have proven (Oh, Malcolm Gladwell, you drive red-shirting hyper-parenting parents crazy) that those who are youngest in their grade are at a statistically significant disadvantage.
I consulted with Lucas and Abigail’s current teachers who recommended, strongly, that the children not skip kindergarten. The best advantage you can give them is going into school confident. “You also don’t want them to be the last to drive, with them getting into the cars of their friends.” Crazy that we’re talking about driving and SAT scores just as kids are learning to write “sat” in their journals. Currently, both the kids can read and sound out words phonetically. I didn’t realize that kids did this before starting kindergarten. But throwing them into first grade, despite where they are now academically, isn’t an option.
The school cutoff dates are different outside of New York City public schools. In Long Island, for example, the children would be placed into kindergarten, where they belong. So New York City schools aren’t an option, which means neither is living in Brooklyn or Manhattan or even Douglaston, Queens. Which leaves us to Long Island, where I was born and raised. But which town?
Jericho. It’s the best school district on Long Island, hands down (99% in math, 91% reading comprehension). It’s district is ranked 3rd in all of New York state. But. But it’s a schlep and a half, at exit 40 on the Long Island Expressway, for Phil. The drive from Roslyn to Jericho, for example, is at least an extra 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the weather and traffic. If we took the place we’re considering, with low ceilings in The Hamlet East, a condo community zoned for Robert Seaman Elementary school (k-5th grade, ranked 8th in all of New York elementary schools), it would likely mean all of Boca Raton, just with colder weather. It’s the same people, though I’m hoping I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Another option, 20-40 minutes closer to Phil’s work, is a beautiful home in Roslyn Estates, where the kids would be zoned for “The Heights,” Roslyn Heights Elementary School, which consists of preschool, kindergarten, and first grade only. Then kids continue on to East Hills Elementary for grades 2-5. Let’s look at the numbers…
ROBERT SEAMAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, JERICHO
SchoolDigger Ranks Robert Seaman Elementary School 8th of 2293 New York public elementary schools.
SchoolDigger ranks Jericho Union Free School District 3rd of 683 New York school districts
Average Math Score: 99.0
Average Reading Score: 91.5
Total Students (2009 – 2010): 315 – Grades K-5
African American: 3 (1%)
American Indian: 0 (0%)
Asian: 44 (14%)
Hispanic: 10 (3.2%)
Pacific Islander: 0 (0%)
Two or more races: 0 (0%)
White: 258 (81.9%)
Fulltime teachers: 38.4
Student/Teacher Ratio: 8.2
Eligible for discounted/free lunch: 0.6%
EAST HILLS SCHOOL, ROSLYN
SchoolDigger Ranks East Hills School 191st of 2293 New York public elementary schools.
SchoolDigger ranks Roslyn Union Free School District 41st of 683 New York school districts.
Average Math Score: 86.5
Average Reading Score: 80.0
Total Students (2009 – 2010): 563 – Grades 2-5
African American: 28 (5%)
American Indian: 0 (0%)
Asian: 94 (16.7%)
Hispanic: 46 (8.2%)
Pacific Islander: 0 (0%)
Two or more races: 0 (0%)
White: 394 (70%)
Fulltime teachers: 40
Student/Teacher Ratio: 14
Eligible for discounted/free lunch: 12.5%
FYI: East Williston School District, where I went to public school, ranks 14th of 683 New York school districts.
It’s not all about numbers, though. There’s the emphasis on arts and sciences, I get it. There’s the people! Though, I have a feeling, and I could be wrong, that the people in Jericho are the same people in Roslyn, are the same people in East Williston and Manhasset… give or take a few rosary beads.
Here’s where priorities get in the way. We are renting a home for a year before jumping in to buy (imagine if we hadn’t done this in Florida?), and ideally, I’d prefer not having to yank the kids out of a school district once they’ve begun. So ideally this choice is one to which we’d stick. Phil believes that IT’S KINDERGARTEN! Who cares if they go to 1st grade in a new school?! It doesn’t truly matter until middle school. That’s when you don’t want to go yanking. But first second grade? Kids are resilient.
Yes, but. But change is hard on all of us. It’s stressful. We’ve taken them from Texas, to Florida, and now to New York. Then one school and house, then another house… a move… plus yet another new school? Am I making more of this than I should be?
I try to remind myself of this: that the most successful people in this world are those who can move through the chambers of change with ease. Who can be at ease with new unknown situations knowing there’s a flow, knowing that they’ll eventually get their footing, then push hard toward succeeding, then be on top, only to start back at square one. It’s the cycle we go through so many times in our lives, with health, with school, with friends, at jobs, in romantic relationships even. With death and grief, with changes, period. And it will be our job as parents to help our children navigate these stages of change so they learn to feel comfortable with transience. It’s one of the, if not the best, lessons any of us can learn. But then I flip back to the phrase, “Kids need stability to feel safe.”
These aren’t the most important decisions I’ll make, but they are what I’m up against now. And I’d LOVE some insight from readers on this. We need to decide soon. We may choose neither Jericho or Roslyn, perhaps we’ll keep looking at Manhasset or East Williston, but now that we’ve narrowed it down to Jericho and Roslyn in terms of acceptable rental homes, we’d love to just decide now… while the homes are actually available. Our move-out date in Boca: JULY FIRST!
Phil wants Roslyn but phoned me to say “I’m willing to do Jericho if and only if we assess that drive and if it’s too much for me, that’s it. Not a consideration going forward.”
I want Jericho but phoned Phil to say, “I’m willing to do Roslyn if and only if we assess the school district and feel like it’s not the best we can do, that we’ll buy in Jericho instead.”
So, we’re both willing to bend and neither of us will break. But I do hate the idea of his driving an extra half hour to get home, all cranky from sitting in traffic. And it means more time for me with the kids, helping with homework, etc. without relief. It means less time with their father. It’s not an easy decision. We need to make one within the next few days. Your help on this would be awesome (both homes are the same price, though the condo has a community pool, tennis and gym included). Also, both homes are only for a year.