To say being a parent in the District of Columbia
comes with challenges is a gross understatement. We are a fast-paced city with priorities on more work; less life balance. We are a city that places emphasis on walking to work, or to Metro. We are a city that accommodates commuters from surrounding jurisdictions who make up a vast majority of our work force. We are a city who welcomes millions of tourists annually.
I love all of this about my city - I truly do. We are a host city in so many ways, and world class in just about every way.
Last week, the MySchoolDC lottery results were handed down to tens of thousands of DC families attempting to enroll their children in pre-kindergarten programs, mine among them. We were allowed to list as many as 12 schools.
Our results: We were waitlisted for each, plus another school who conducts its own lottery. Our child's highest number on any waitlist is 14. And then it jumps to 116, 120, 156 and all the way to 500+. In fact, nearly all of my child's daycare classmates find themselves on waitlists. P
arents are shocked and panicked about what possibilities exist for their children.
And with stomach in throat, our family, too, feels a sense of panic. This is what sends so many packing for the nearby suburbs.
But wait - there's a catch! This isn't for kindergarten or elementary school - merely pre-kindergarten. Most surrounding jurisdictions call it daycare or offer tuition-based pre-K. But DC offers pre-K for free. And it's a tremendous bonus to have the luxury of a highly qualified place to send our children ...for free. There are those who even live in the suburbs known to illegally enroll their children in the MySchoolDC lottery to take advantage of this tremendous resource.
P.S. I don't recommend committing fraud unless you've got $500,000 burning a hole in your pocket, and you're willing to do some time.
The greater story about DC's offerings is:
1) There are plenty of terrific non-MySchoolDC pre-K options available throughout DC that offer free or subsidized pre-K programming, it's merely a matter of identifying which one serves as the best fit;
2) There are multiple opportunities to enroll our children in future MySchoolDC lotteries;
3) The waitlist actually yields unforeseen results if parents are willing to play the waiting game.
This entire parenthood thing is a vast education that pushes us in so many - sometimes uncomfortable - ways. And for those of us left feeling "Odd Man Out," it's a time for further exploration, while also pushing our city officials to quicken the pace on bringing greater public and public charter educational resources to our city to satisfy our baby boom.
But in terms of leaving DC because of it ...well, I'm not even remotely of that mindset. And if you feel differently, I'm only a call away.