Wow. Who knew? Back when I started the school choice process in my third ever post, I listed “community” as one of the key factors in my school choice. I looked at it from the perspective of the benefits of a neighborhood school–the ability to walk to school, having friends in the neghborhood. I never looked at the huge negative of not choosing a neighborhood school–an extra commute.
My son started kindergarten last week. I had made a few dry runs of the trip and it seemed to work out alright–15 minutes. However, a dry run over the summer is no substitute for the real thing. At schooltime rush hour, with all of the busses and other parents out there, it was a much different story. Add to it the storms we had during the first week of school, and what I thought would be a 15-minute ride turned out to be more like 30 (normal day) to 40 (stormy day). I am looking for shortcuts, but as a backup plan, my friends and I have already started looking into alternatives, including taking regional rail, the bus, and carpooling. I have tried taking a SEPTA bus a couple of times already. It is more relaxing, but the timing is not any better.
My coworker had a horrifying experience last week when his mother-in-law was waiting at the bus stop for his son. The bus arrived and his son wasn’t on it. For 15 harrowing minutes, they could not locate him. It turns out that he was still at the school, mistakenly sent to an afterschool program that he was not supposed to start until November.
This is all to say that test scores, teacher quality, facilities, academic philosophy are important, but don’t skip paying attention to the nuts and bolts stuff like transportation when choosing a school. Remember that the commute is something that you have to live with every day.
At least this problem will be alleviated because starting in first grade, kids are eligible for busing. Still, the whole transportation situation has put a sour aftertaste on what has otherwise been a sweet start to kidnergarten.