Would you send your very bright child to a high school where 50% of the population is physically/mentally challenged? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 26 Old 08-04-2011, 04:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DH and I are separating and I need to find a cheaper house to live in.  I have been searching and searching and finally found one that will work perfectly for us (it's actually right next to the public grade school, and is one of the preferred schools we've chosen).  The only problem is that it would be zoned for the high school that is 50% disabled and learning delayed by population (they have special progams at this school for those populations including a "special olympics" etc.). (I truly apologize if I am using any innapropriate terminology).

 

Academically, from a provincial standarized testing point of view, it is considered a very bad school.  It ranks very low in Math and Reading, it has a reputation for being "rough" and that the police are "always there", not sure how true that is.  I have always thought that it was the one school we would avoid since it didn't seem strong academically and I didn't like the idea of violence in school if the police really are always there.  I did not know it ran special-ed programs, that was not why I had decided against it, it was really based on the academic reputation and the reputation for violence.

 

However, in falling in love with this house, I decided to take a closer look at the high school to see how bad it really might be.  My older son will enter high school in about 6-7 years.  I do believe that high school is very important in that this is where your child will develop friendships with kids who will influence them in good/bad decisions during difficult teen years, and it also sets the stage academically for what universities you are accepted in to, how your grades are, etc. that become so important when establishing a career later in life.

 

However, when I actually look at the school website, it appears to have some wonderful programs, including a chess club, it is very active in math competitions, science clubs, groups that help needy families, help save the environment, and clubs geared at helping other students, there are dance, theatre and music clubs, french clubs, history clubs, even a "mock trial" club for students taking law (my son thinks he wants to be a lawyer lol).  It really sounds like they have some great programs.  Many of the sports and athletic teams have both non-disabled and disabled streams.

 

The school also offers several apprenticeship programs not offered at any of our other high schools, including a special program that is designed for high achievers/gifted students who can take 2 university level courses in high school.

 

So, if I hadn't heard otherwise I would have thought this was a great school by looking at their website.  It really sounds like there is something for everyone and that the school tries to incorporate all abilities in to all programming.  My son has always had a heart for those are are challenged - he always helps other kids in his class who don't understand the work, he is very patient, gentle and kind to one of our family friend's son's who is delayed, (we were amazed at how naturally this comes to him) and he got quite upset when kids at his current school were laughing at one of the disabled kids at his school.  In some ways, I think it would be a great opportunity to be in a school like that to learn about inclusion, different abilities, compassion, etc. 

 

However, he has tested borderline gifted and really needs a strong academic environment. He is also very skilled at sports and loves them, and so I think he would really thrive in an environment where there are a lot of opportunities to be challenged academically and be on strong sports teams.  I'm not sure this school has very strong sports teams, and it's hard to tell about the academics - it has such a bad reputation.

 

WWYD?  Would you consider it?  I will not put my kids through another move - I did that as a kid and I swore I would never do that to my kids, and they had a very difficult adjustment with the move to the new house/school we had to do 2 years ago to our current place, so I will do one more move but I will not move them again after this so I want to make sure it's right for us long term.

 

I grew up going to one of the very best schools in the province, and currently we live in the catchement area for one of the very best schools in the province (but a different one).  That is why we moved here, just for the schools.  But I'll have to go in to a tiny townhouse with no backyard if we stay in this neighbourhood versus that neighbourhood we can get a decent sized house with a nice large yard on a quiet street, walking distance to the schools, etc.

 

Thoughts and feedback?

 

 

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#2 of 26 Old 08-04-2011, 04:49 PM
 
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It's so hard to make these decisions so far in advance. A lot can happen in 6 or 7 years. What your child needs and what the school can offer can alter drastically in that time. Your options may also change in that time. Personally, I wouldn't live somewhere you don't love in the hopes that it'll be worth it 6 years later.

As to the school, it's hard to say. When it comes down to it, any school is only as good as your child makes it. If he's bright and motivated, he'll befriend and be in classes with the same. Given his ability level, it's likely that he'll only work with the most mainstreamed and capable of the special ed program unless they are completely segregated. From our experience, special ed and gifted are just two sides of the same coin. Both need individualized education. I often find special ed teachers and parents the most accepting and understaning of the needs of the high ability kids. In the states, there is even some benefit coming from a lower performing school. If you are an excellent student, you stand out as opposed to being lost in a sea of straight A's from a wealthier and high achieving district. We know brilliant kids who stayed in lower rated schools because it up their chances at the Ivy league universities.

Personally, I have 2 gifted kids. My eldest went to a local elementary, local middle and then chose and was accepted into a specialty high school across the cou ty. DS is both gifted and learning disabled (dyslexic.) He went to a specialty elementary across town, is going to local middle and at the moment wants to try to get into a non-local high. Nothing actually went according to plan.

So, based on what you said and based on my own experiences, I'd take the house you love that works with your income and lifestyle and just go from there. Lots change in 6 years.

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#3 of 26 Old 08-04-2011, 05:26 PM
 
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You are 6 years away from a high school decision? Personally, I wouldn't let that be the deciding factor in choosing a home now.

 

For one thing, I'd investigate whether there are other public high schools in your city with open enrollment or selective admission programs (science and technology focussed high schools, cyberarts progams, performing arts schools, high performance athletes, community and social justice programs, alternative self-directed programs etc.) When my dc and their friends were considering high schools, there were about a half-dozen excellent, in-demand schools that were favoured by most, but there were many more that they could have attended. In fact, its almost a rarity for a kid to attend a neighbourhood high school. At gatherings with friends, we all laugh about the fact that we just packed ourselves off to whatever local school sat down the road, but our children go through the kind of process we didn't experience until choosing universities. Maybe your school system remains rigid about attendance within specific catchment areas, but it's worth finding out for sure, so that you are aware of your children's options.  

 

I'd be more concerned about the state of the local elementary schools that your dc will attend. If violence and police presence are concerns at the high school, then I'd be surprised if they weren't also involved in the elementary/middle school also. 

 

BTW, my kids have moved around a fair amount and they have coped with changing schools with little difficulty. Adjustment yes, but difficulty, no. Now different kids have different personalities and needs so maybe your children won't manage well and need more stability. However, you may not be giving your children enough credit for how well they can cope with moving more than once.  

 

 

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#4 of 26 Old 08-04-2011, 07:13 PM
 
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I agree that six years is a long way off. The other thing is that you really need to visit the school and talk to current parents to know what it's like.

Would it be so bad to move in 6 years? By the time kids are 13-14, they'll be able to get around on their own to see friends in other neighborhoods, even if they move.

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#5 of 26 Old 08-04-2011, 10:52 PM
 
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My answer is a big fat yes -- my oldest is starting high school this year at a school with a high percentage of special needs students.

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Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post

From our experience, special ed and gifted are just two sides of the same coin. Both need individualized education. I often find special ed teachers and parents the most accepting and understaning of the needs of the high ability kids.


This is true. There is a large population of gifted students at the school as well.  And they all get along to a degree that is almost shocking to me as a grown up!

 

It works out well for my DD, because she is both. She is gifted and on the autism spectrum. She's at a school where kids are treated like individuals. (There are also some students at the school who are "normal" but have had traumatic life experiences, or have parents who just like the style of education).

 

From your post, it sounds like you are going a lot on reputation and not much on reality. School's reputations are odd things are often not based on much. They are like a game of telephone -- you heard something from someone who heard something from some one who had a niece who went to school there. Really not something to make your decision on.

 

You've got time -- you can watch the school, go to games and plays and other events there. Get a feel for the place.

 

I don' t know how testing works in Ontario, but in here in the States they've mandated that all kids, even special needs kids with IEPs, take the test. It's stupid. In some states here it's pretty easy to the the scores for the non-IEP students. It's also not uncommon for the police to end up at the "best" (i.e. most monied) high schools for drug issues. There's most likely a way to check out and compare, and see if the school actually is rougher, or if it just has a reputation for being rougher.

 

Do you have other options? In our city school district, there is a gifted only magnet that is competitive to get into, and in spite of being less monies than the suburban districts has no real behavior problems (because they kick kids out). This kind of school is fairly common in big and midsized cities in  the states. Are there any magnets, charters, etc? Is private high school an option?

 

I agree with the others that it's too far away for you to be able to plan what is best for your child. The same school can be perfect for one kid, and not a good fit for another. By half way through 7th grade, I felt like I knew what to look for in a high school for DD.

 

My younger child is going into 8th this year, and we are still undecided on where she will go to high school. We'll visit some schools together later in the year and help her decide. She might go to the same highschool as her sister, she might not. They are different people.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#6 of 26 Old 08-05-2011, 06:00 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 It's also not uncommon for the police to end up at the "best" (i.e. most monied) high schools for drug issues.


So true. The "best" (i.e. highest family income neighbourhood) school in our area has a bad reputation for drugs and alcohol. The big difference between it and the dodgy low-income school is the price of the designer drugs that the kids use at the "best" school. For icing on the cake, those kids have lots of access to cars compared to the poor students stuck on public transit, so their drunken, drugged partying has an extra element of excitement.

 

 

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#7 of 26 Old 08-05-2011, 06:03 AM
 
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I would not. I would opt for an online public school or do home school.

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#8 of 26 Old 08-05-2011, 06:43 AM
 
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I think about this all the time and my kid is 13 years away from high school. We have bought land and are building a house in an area where the elementary and middle schools are great, but the high school is awful. They have a 40% graduation rate, the test scores are very low, and last year there were 27 girls that gave birth during the school year. I will probably opt to homeschool, send her to private school, or drive her to another town for high school. I wouldnt let this decision affect where I was going to live, but something I would think about it is why it is the way it is. Is there a lack of parental involvement in these kids' lives, is there a high crime rate, why are there so man people in that area disabled? Is it next to a chemical plant or something? (In Louisville, KY there is an area called rubbertown where over 50% of the children are disabled and it has been linked to the chemical pollution from the factories.)

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#9 of 26 Old 08-05-2011, 07:32 AM
 
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I wanted to mention the police. In our county, it's not uncommon for police to be at ALL the schools but honestly, they are at the schools that they are pressured to be at most. My DD's school I swear has a cop on the grounds every day. They also have their own campus security force. It's also considered the safest school in the district (which is the 6th largest district in the USA.) It's a performing arts school where you have to audition to get in. The "thugs" wear Berkelely school of music sweaters and carry cellos lol. Because the majority of students are bussed in from other parts of the county, the police get a LOT of pressure to be a presence. I always see cops and yet there hasn't been even a minor incident in years. DD feels totally safe there.

 

I still suggest you do your homework but police on campus is pretty much the norm here especially at the "safe" schools. When you do eventually research high schools, make sure to look at several to get a point of reference.


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#10 of 26 Old 08-05-2011, 10:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for the feedback so far! :)

 

Unfortunately homeschooling and private school is not an option.

 

Here, you are allocated to the school you are "zoned" for, the end.  Schools are not generally available for open-enrollment from other catchment areas.  So where you live determines what school you must attend.

 

 

There are no private or specialty high schools in the area.  Just public.  So if I buy this house that is the school they must go to.  It is not the designated gifted school, my son was borderline gifted but they are doing a retest due to problems at the time of the test that did not allow him to complete it.  From what I've learned I expect he will not test in to the gifted program so I'm not sure being zoned for the other gifted school matters, (very strict rules here about who gets the gifted designation or not, and therefore who get the specialized learning plan etc.), but he definitely displays many gifted attributes and tested right on the cusp of qualifying, so I do kind of consider him to have special needs in a way, and he is VERY strong in math and loves math, chess and those kinds of things.

 

 

The population of disabled students is so high because that is the designated school for kids who are identified as learning disabled, (which often includes those with physical disabilities).  In our school board, they run special programs for kids who qualify as learning disabled at specific schools.  This is the designated school for our whole town for those with learning disabilities, but it also covers the catchment area for non-disabled kids who live in the area.  Hope that makes sense.

 

For elementary school, they would go to the local French Immersion school which has an excellent reputation and is kind of in a different neighbourhood so I'm not too worried about that.

 

I guess I am planning ahead because - for a variety of reasons - I feel very strongly that I don't want to move again.  Also, I've lived in this area for 40+ years and none of the high schools have changed much, they are pretty much the same as when I went to high school 25 years ago, and the catchment areas haven't really changed much either, so it is very likely not much will change in the next 6 years.

 

Excellent points about the "richer" schools/drugs/cars, and visiting the school/talking to parents.

 

 

 

 

 

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#11 of 26 Old 08-06-2011, 07:00 AM
 
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For elementary school, they would go to the local French Immersion school which has an excellent reputation and is kind of in a different neighbourhood so I'm not too worried about that.

 

 


 

Is there a French Immersion high school option for them? That may be an answer if you and your children decide that the neighbourhood high school isn't a good fit. 

 

If there is no other choice, then I'd also work on "immunizing" your children against potential problems in a less academically rigorous school. They will need to be more self-reliant and self-directed in their studies, rather than relying on teachers to challenge them. Instead of waiting for teachers to give them interesting academic challenges, they should become adept at identifying and exploring their own interests. Coach them to advocate for themselves at school with teachers and the administration. You may need to get them involved in extra-curriculars to fill in gaps. If there is a local gifted advocacy group, perhaps they offer programs or social meetings. Finding mentors in the community can help. By the time they enter the high school, they'll be better prepared to take on responsibility for their learning, rather than relying on a school staff that may have to put their energy and attention into supporting struggling students. 

 

 

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#12 of 26 Old 08-08-2011, 03:08 PM
 
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once the school reopens i'd go and visit just to get the feel of it, even though you still have 6 years.

 

absolutely i think olly's advice is golden. start prepping him to be self sufficient. 

 

one thing to look at which might make a big difference is researching what happens in the classroom. in some schools the teacher actually spends more time on management than on teaching. that is the kind of school you want to avoid, since there would be almost no challenge for your son.

 

if he can manage on his own (u might have to wait until middle school for this) then it doesnt matter wherever he goes. but if he needs that extra bit of challenge (i know my dd entering 4th grade does) then you might need to look at a school where they actually teach in the classrooms.


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#13 of 26 Old 08-08-2011, 08:13 PM
 
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You already answered the question I was going to ask about open enrollment, so on to the next one.  Does disabled include what is referred to a emotionally disabled or ED where I live?  I wouldn't mind a large percentage of kids with special needs (physical or learning) as long as it doesn't limit the offerings of accelerated classes b/c there aren't enough kids to place in them.  On the other hand, emotionally disabled kids include kids with significant behavioral issues that could impact your child's educational experience significantly.

 

 

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#14 of 26 Old 08-09-2011, 06:41 AM
 
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You can't tell a lot about a school by the website, except that if the website was well written or not. If that's where they put their resources, then it will sound good.

IMO, you have to go into the school, visit it - see if the kids are happy, if there is huge amount of screaming going on in the halls... what is on the walls. I think you may gleam more from that than a website.

 

disclaimer: I havent read all replies yet.

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#15 of 26 Old 08-09-2011, 07:14 AM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by meemee View Post

 

one thing to look at which might make a big difference is researching what happens in the classroom. in some schools the teacher actually spends more time on management than on teaching. that is the kind of school you want to avoid, since there would be almost no challenge for your son.


I agree, but I don't see what the percentage of SN students has to do with this. I would guess that the district has the magnet program to offer special classes for them, not to have them all mixed completely in with the general population.

 

Just because the SCHOOL is 50% LD, it doesn't follow that the a math class, for example, will have any LD kids in it.

 

The school, no doubt, has different tracks. It is the track that the OPer's would be on that she should be most concerned about.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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I would in no way move into an area with a school in which academics are not going to challenge my child and is also a safe environment.  Which school will be that, well . . .you are going to have to visit both schools to really see what they are like.  You will need to observe some classes, meet teachers, and see the overall environment.  Websites can be really decieving.  Do you know anyone in the area that you could ask?  Maybe even speak with a librarian, tutor in the area for their opinion of the school. 

 

We live in a smaller home so we can free up funds for our DDs' education and lessons, so, that is where I am coming from.   


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#17 of 26 Old 08-09-2011, 08:19 AM
 
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my comment had nothing to do with SNs kids. it was just a general comment on when looking at HSs look at what goes on in class - any HS. sorry i should have clarified this earlier.  one of the criteria to look at. i made this comment because i just came across this. i know a teacher who substitutes. and she was talking about two specific HSs. one that is known for high crime rate (i wasnt considering that one) and another one that i was considering (still a public HS but mainly wealthy gate kids - and still had issues with class management overall). i guess i was coming from my perspective where i was shocked that the HS i was considering would even have issues and that's the first thing that came to mind. 
 

Quote:
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I agree, but I don't see what the percentage of SN students has to do with this. I would guess that the district has the magnet program to offer special classes for them, not to have them all mixed completely in with the general population.

 

Just because the SCHOOL is 50% LD, it doesn't follow that the a math class, for example, will have any LD kids in it.

 

The school, no doubt, has different tracks. It is the track that the OPer's would be on that she should be most concerned about.



 


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#18 of 26 Old 08-09-2011, 10:35 AM
 
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From what I remeber from the the TDSB site I think your child is allowed to attend any high school but may have to apply if he's out of the catchement area.  My son's starting JK so we've plenty of time but I did do some research.  I'm not sure about our local high school but I know we're super close to another really, really great high school.

 

Have you looked at the Catholic high school?  Their high schools are open to all people, no proof of religion needed.  The only catch would be attending religion classes, which, from what I remember world religions, philosopy and sociology fell under these too.  I went to one, and one of my friends was hindu and there were a few muslims who attended as well.  Not sure what their gifted programs would be like.  We did have a gifted class at ours but no real gifted program.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 

From your post, it sounds like you are going a lot on reputation and not much on reality. School's reputations are odd things are often not based on much. They are like a game of telephone -- you heard something from someone who heard something from some one who had a niece who went to school there. Really not something to make your decision on.

 

You've got time -- you can watch the school, go to games and plays and other events there. Get a feel for the place.

 

I don' t know how testing works in Ontario, but in here in the States they've mandated that all kids, even special needs kids with IEPs, take the test. It's stupid. In some states here it's pretty easy to the the scores for the non-IEP students. It's also not uncommon for the police to end up at the "best" (i.e. most monied) high schools for drug issues. There's most likely a way to check out and compare, and see if the school actually is rougher, or if it just has a reputation for being rougher.

 

I totally second this. My kids go to the school in town with the worst reputation. A lot of it is undeserved. We have a very active PTA, great teachers, fantastic art and music programs, school garden, free clubs, etc. etc. and quite a few people in the immediate neighborhood won't even consider it for their kids based on the reputation. Also standardized test scores, but I personally don't put *too* much stock in those (my DH is a teacher and knows how that system works - if he was worried, I'd be, but he's not).
 

 


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#20 of 26 Old 08-21-2011, 03:31 PM
 
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My son started at early college last year in 9th grade, where all of the students have to do very well academically in order to be accepted. But he has a couple of friends who went to a public school in middle school 6-8th grades who said the students were not only bad but so were the teachers and the teachers never did anything about the bad kids, and the school was majority troubled children. These two kids he knows that went to this school were pushed to go there outside their district because their parents worked in the area. They had better schools in their own district they could attend but their parents wanted it convenient to their workplace. Point is, these two boys made it through unscathed and even went on to enter in to an early college program for high school. So ya never know!! Good luck to you and your new home where ever it may be, I know how hard it is to split up, been there done that myself. Hang in there! You're doing the best YOU can do and that's ALL you can do and your kids will appreciate it.


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#21 of 26 Old 08-25-2011, 05:09 PM
 
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If your son goes into the French Immersion program he will be able to attend a FI high school.

 

I have had a cousin and a nephew attend schools outside of their catchment areas in Toronto. One attended a school for kids who were exceptional athletes (mostly Olympic training level) and the other a school that has a strong arts program for talented kids. I think that if you do some digging you will find that there are many options in Toronto other than your neighbourhood school or private school.

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#22 of 26 Old 08-26-2011, 05:51 AM
 
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HIgh school is still a ways off. Also I teach at a school that has a bad reputation in the community because of how it was a decade ago but is not that way now. It is a great school. You have a lot of choices for high schools and things change over the years. Also I would not rely on the standardized test scores to tell you how the school is doing. I personally would not be worrying about high school especially if I liked the elementary school plenty can change in 6-7 years.


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#23 of 26 Old 08-31-2011, 09:37 AM
 
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Schools trump how much we like the house, hands down.

 

I also would not buy a house with the idea that we'd move in 6 years or that 6 years is a long way in the future.  Six years goes by pretty quickly and with the housing market fluctuating, who knows what it will be like in 6 years.  I know lots of people who are stuck in their houses because they are upside down in their mortgage.

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#24 of 26 Old 08-31-2011, 06:24 PM
 
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for sure toronto has options for students to attend other schools that aren't in their catchment area. i went to one myself, as did my sister (and our neighbourhood highschool was fine, we were both just talented and interested in areas that the school didn't cater to). for myself, i had to apply and put together a portfolio, but it was dependent on the demand each year. some years all you needed was a recommendation from the art teacher or department at your junior high. my sister only had to apply i think, and have certain grades in math and computers. several of my friends left our arts school to attend alternative schools that had a more self-directed approach, and they only needed a guidance counselor to tell them about the options and send a recommendation. 

 

toronto is very special in that many of their highschools and a fair number of junior highs have specialized programs, and as long as your kid shows some kind of interest and ability in a certain area, it's a pretty good chance that he can find the right place to go. they don't just move people to other schools because "the neighbourhood is crappy" or "the school has a drug problem" but there are options. the guidance counselor in his junior high or elementary school can help with that. 

 

there are certainly private school options in toronto as well. 

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#25 of 26 Old 09-03-2011, 06:25 AM
 
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It seems like it would be a really good idea to go meet with folks at the school (apologies if you already did this and I didn't see it), talk to other parents that have their kids at the school, ask the staff how they challenge kids that are bright, what their college admission rate is for graduating students, how kids do on the SAT, etc. Spending a day there and immersing yourself in all things about the school might really inform you. Good luck figuring this out; this is a tough one.


 
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#26 of 26 Old 09-05-2011, 07:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all, I'm not actually in Toronto, but in the GTA/suburbs so different school board.

 

All great posts, so thank you!!!  :)  Lots to think about...

 

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