It’s middle school selection time in NYC, and with our oldest being in 5th grade this is our first time going through the process. Without going into too many specifics, it’s looking like our choice will come down to two public schools, which couldn’t be more different: Giant & Established vs. Tiny & Brand Spanking New. We have no idea what to do.
I’ve been going over the pros and cons of each school. The first has its own building and contains 1,800 middle school students. It has every in-school and after-school extracurricular activity you could name (and its teams do amazingly well in competitions). It is long-established in its neighborhood and universally well-regarded. Despite its size it does not seem crazy or disorganized at all. There’s an accelerated program, yet the more average kids don’t get forgotten. A large number of students go on to elite NYC high schools.
Jake took a tour and absolutely adored it. However, it would be a bit of a commute for him – 20-30 minutes door-to-door. He’d be taking the subway. He could possibly get lost in such a huge student body, especially if there’s a subject he’s not crazy about and just wants to coast through. If he’s doing after-school activities in the winter he’d be coming home after dark. And the wonderful principal recently left, so that’s a big unknown.
The second school is being started by a group that has a great track record of starting similar schools. I love the principal. Being new, there will be plenty of supplies and an enthusiastic staff. It will be very small – no hiding! And did I mention, it’s on our freaking corner? No commute at all – an extra hour a day is nothing to sneeze at. Plus it will be super convenient for other activities and performances. The principal is taking the kids on a retreat over the summer – she’s really invested in getting to know them and starting off right. The transition from the local elementary school he’s been at for seven years would probably be easier at this small school. The first class will get to help the school find itself, choose activities, etc. – something that really excites Jake.
But, of course, the entire school is a great unknown. It’s in a building that it will share with an elementary school. We have no idea what the student body will be like – often new schools get stuck with kids who aren’t wanted anywhere else. Past success doesn’t guarantee a great school.
The great thing is, I think the odds are in our favor whichever we choose. But the experiences will be so different for Jake. And which one we choose could severely impact where he goes to high school. And I have to admit, I’m excited about getting in on something new and all of the advantages that come with that. Then again, plugging him into a place that is running already would be the easier choice.