As I noted before, the schedule for the first week of kindergarten is a little bit different in Philadelphia than what I was expecting. The whole idea is to ease your child into the whole school experience but depending upon your child's personality, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.
For my daughter, it was a bad thing. To be quite honest, I would have preferred that she start school on the first day as the big kids. She's an anxious child and all of that waiting for something to happen was really just freaking her out. Once school started, however, she loved it.
The class sizes this year are much larger than I anticipated. Whereas I was used to tiny classes at private school (which is not necessarily better from a social and other perspective), the classes at the public school have grown. I think this is a mix of things:
- Catholic schools shutting down
- Private school tuition on the rise
- Economy hitting middle class families
- Public schools getting better
You can't underestimate that last bit. As the word spreads that neighborhood schools are getting better, the schools are becoming more popular. It's kind of an odd paradigm because on the one hand, as the school gets better and grows more popular, you'd hope that it continues to improve. On the other hand, as the school grows, the potential for problems increases and struggles for "control" over the future of the school are to be expected. I can already sense some of the latter happening. I've been hearing the "why don't we..." chatter even as the school is trying to complete existing projects. I'm glad that we have many forward thinking parents on board but I hope that they can be flexible enough to understand timing and school district politics and those other intangibles that can't be controlled like you'd expect them to be. I say this because I've seen other schools implode over these issues. But I'm hopeful that our school can manage expectations and limitations a little better.
All of that said, my daughter's kindergarten has nearly 20 students. I know, not a lot compared to many other schools. But again, more than I anticipated. I think that they can have up to 30 in the class under the current union rules (I'm not completely sure). The reason I know there's a cap is because historically, Philly schools have had some issues with overcrowding inside the classrooms. A good friend yanked her child from school a few years back after her child was attacked inside the classroom - a classroom that was simply too crowded to be properly monitored. I'll admit that kind of thing gives me pause.
It's something I'll have to come to terms with because it's happening. The total number of kindergarteners in the school has increased markedly. This year, the school added another kindergarten class to keep up with the growth and classes were added in other grades, too.
To its credit, the school seems to be adjusting well to the growth. There are no "emergency" trailers outside the buildings as there are in other schools or staggered closing times to deal with the overflow of kids. It all seems to be going well. There has been some confusion over gym days and school lunch money, but that's to be expected.
Despite a few blips, the first week was a success. My daughter managed to meet some new friends and steal some time at lunch time to spend with her "old" friends from preschool. Perhaps the best sign? When I asked her how things were going, without putting down her book bag, she did a pirouette around the living room and yelled, "Great!"