Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How to Navigate the School Lottery in Washington DC

It's December...

Of course, Santa's sleigh is around the corner but so is ED Fest and so is the DC School Lottery.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I don't like the DC School Lottery because it is set up in a way that it is ideally fair but it is not executed well at all in my opinion. I have 3 children. Every single year that we have done the DC Lottery they have placed my kids into three different schools. Now if I was Medusa then of course this would not be a problem at all. I can have all the arms in the world and all the powers in the world to get my children to 3 different schools at the same time. But realistically this is not the case and DC School Lottery generally will not put all 3 of your kids in the same school the first time around. So in doing the DC School Lottery you need to understand the process of the DC School Lottery. And ALWAYS follow up with the school! 

You're going to want to make sure that your kids are all putting the same school as number 1 school  if possible. This is going to be really important for you guys to be able to get your kids in the same school. There is a chance that all your kids will be offered spots at the same school it is just extremely rare. It is more likely that if one gets accepted, the others will be wait listed. (I know! It doesn't make sense and is frustrating!).

When you have multiple kids what you want to look at is schools that are within proximity of each other and you would have the ability to realistically get the children to different schools around the same time. Most schools start around the same time so having schools across the city isn't going to be realistic without some major issues coming up right from the start.

The other thing you want to keep in mind is that you can accept a spot for one child and then call the school themselves and ask them if there's any space in Child Number 2 or number 3 in their grade level. There's something to be said for telling the school that you will not accept the spot until you know for sure that the other child or children will get accepted as well. You have to remember that they want to fill those seats. So if they want to fill the seats, it's even more vitally important that you be able to communicate with the school what your needs are as a parent and don't back down off of them.

Make sure that you also go and visit the school do not let them pressure you into feeling like you have to accept the spot within an hour of calling you. Some have tried this with me. I knew then it wasn't the school for me because of it because I like to be an informed parent.

It is vitally important that you visit every school that you put an application in for and it's best to do so in advance so when they do call you an offer you a spot you know what you're getting yourself into. I personally have done the DC Lottery system and put my kids on the waitlist for a school that I was not sure about myself and then I got a call and it wasn't until literally September that they called me saying they had a spot available. So what happened was that I didn't have time to go visit the school and they only gave me a 24-hour window and because my child was already in a school I could not go back and forth between managing a daily schedule and going and looking at the school so I can accept the spot especially given that they had protocol for you to be able to see if the school in the first place. Needless to say, having a busy schedule wasn't helpful in this sense.

Make sure as well to look at the performance of the school and how it matches up to where your children are. It's going to be really important that each school matches up with the child uniquely. For example if I have 3 children and I know that one is an art student and the other one is science based and the other one is more traditional,  I have to be able to find schools or be able to communicate their needs to the teacher that they have. So make sure that  you're asking all these questions because you don't want to get accepted into a spot go through all the process and realize that that school is not the best for your child and you have to start over again.

While the process sounds complicated and it really kind of is for those of us with more than one child, there are ways to kind of navigate it and I've done it for 5 years now. So of course all of these things I'm saying to you is based off of our stuff that I have personally experienced or thought about.

Know that not everything happens the right way the first time and so your child not being in this school doesn't mean they won't get in. Just means that there's no spots for that class that they have open. So it's also really important not to drop the wait list that you are on, in case it does come up even in the middle of the year. You just don't know when the spots will become available because it's literally based on when a child enters or exits a classroom or when a class room is expanded. Things are ever changing.

I would also say that even though you do the process online for the application was also vitally important to have a copy of your own in paper form. The reason for this being is because a lot of the times what the DC School Lottery system requires they don't always communicate with the schools and so you are stuck dealing with having to do two sets of paperwork and if you already have a paper copy what you for a submitted that you can literally handed to them and you won't have to redo everything from scratch. This doesn't say you have some things to fill out but it saves you a lot of stress as it does the other person sitting behind the desk (poor person).

I'm hoping that a few of these tips are really really helpful for you and trying to determine how to navigate the DC School Lottery it is worth it especially if there's that one so that you have an eye on I do not take them off your list you know that's really important and make sure that you contact the school directly if you have questions since could be very very important for you and for your child.

See the other two posts regarding this issue:
An Easy Quick Guide to School Choices (in Washington DC)
How to Choose the Right School for Your Child (in DC)

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