Comment: The lottery
Last week, my family played the lottery. Not the fun kind, where you take on unbeatable odds in search of outrageous fortune. The scary, Russian roulette kind, where you feel like your child’s life (or in this case, his education) is on the line. The kindergarten lottery.
I tried to be rational about it. There is not enough room at the school – Franklin – for all the kids in our attendance zone, and a lottery makes more sense than parents standing in line overnight. All the schools on the Island are good, so no matter where my kids go, they’ll be fine. But in the hours leading up to the drawing, my stomach started to hurt and my mouth went dry. And the school library-turned-drawing room seemed awfully hot and cramped.
I understand why the district decided to do a lottery, but I can’t help thinking that the uncertainty of this situation was exactly what I moved my family here to avoid. Everybody wants their kids to go to a good school, and it’s easy to get invested in the idea of going to a specific one. Over the years we’ve lived here, we got invested in the idea of our kids joining the parade of children marching up San Antonio Avenue every day.
And so it was with great anticipation that I entered the library. There, school and district staff waited with a list of names and a deck of numbered playing cards – and the news that 15 of the 40 spots available were already taken.
Student affairs chief David Dierking went over the process and shuffled the deck. A set of twins were the first kids to get in. A few cards later, one of my son’s preschool classmates got in; the other was called shortly after that. Then one of the children whose parents I met on the school tour. I was starting to get even more anxious. Dierking shuffled and drew, shuffled and drew. Twenty-two names had been called. I started thinking about what I would tell my son, where he would go if this didn’t work out. And then his name was called, number 23 of 25 available spots.
I was a lot more relieved to get in than I like to admit. But I’m also heartbroken for the families of the 13 kids who did not get in, because they have to decide whether to wait for a spot to open up or find one in another school, quick. The process, while low-tech, was fair. But that doesn’t make it suck any less.
In the end, we may all end up in the same boat: Franklin Principal Gail Rossiter told the parents assembled last week that Franklin could close in 2009. There is no certainty in life. It’s all about making the opportunities where you find them.