CD and I took a tour today of the middle school. It was only yesterday that I was still breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of elementary school. (Although that had a lot to do with knowing I'd have to get up at 6:30am. for nine years.) Pook won't be starting middle school for at least two years, but we need to make some decisions now that will affect his middle school years.
Despite many budget cuts, school closures, teacher pay cuts and all, we still have a thriving gifted education program. Pook attends a pull-out model now, with two gifted teachers serving our school teaching science and social studies. Our school has many more teachers at the school certified in Gifted Education and we love the school and feel like it is meeting his needs well. That said, we have the option of trying to get him into a magnet school for bright kids. (I'm using that term because the others are so confusing.) Between two and four (?) kids from his grade (of 60?) who are eligible (20?) are chosen by lottery to attend. Kids from all corners of the county are also applying, but we're fortunate that the school is nearby. Clearly, the chances of getting in are slim. A few more can get in each year all the way into high school, but once in, the kids can remain in the magnet program (unless their grades slip significantly) until they graduate. The program he's in now also continues through graduation. Then there seems to be a program at the middle school for "high achievers" and for the general population. Confused yet?
Our dilemma is whether we care if he's in this exclusive magnet school group through middle and high school. The up side is that the kids will be together from 4th grade - 12th. They'll be in the magnet school nearby for their 6th grade year, instead of in the middle school that year like most kids here. They'll have gifted teachers teaching all of their subjects but electives like gym and music. Down sides include the lack of proximity to classmates who live far away, and leaving current elementary school friends. The gifted program that he's in will continue into middle school, but not every teacher he gets will be certified in Gifted Ed. He would, however, be in ability groups for those classes anyway, and so would still be surrounded by bright kids, many of whom are there simply because their names were never chosen in the lottery.
So, do we take our chances and apply for this magnet school, or enjoy what we have and keep going on this path? I fear that if we apply and don't get in, we'll be upset, but if we don't apply at all (and therefore don't get in) we could regret it. We learned a lot on our tour of the middle school (really liked the place) but haven't made up our minds yet. We're grateful that we have the choices, but still feel confused about this. I think I'm planning more for his social life than academic life here. I'm lucky that I think all our options will provide him with a good education. I have so many friends who have had to give up on public schools to either go into private school poverty or to home school. I wish I wan't having to worry about middle school (and high school!) already when the poor boy is only eight!