Schools, Take Three

On Saturday, Paul and I visited Ecole Bilingue for their Fall Open House. One of my department’s faculty (with whom I’m relatively close) has been involved with the school since it’s opening — her husband, a Board Member, gave us a guided tour of the entire main facility. Wow. It’s a really good school. We really, really, really thought it was fantastic.

We know that Will would do great there. I mean, he’d do fabulously great there. One of his teachers is a juggler Paul knows from Juggling Club (and a male teacher — we think that would be a great influence, too). All of the teachers are fantastic (they are all professional teachers from France who are hired abroad and come to NOLA to teach for a few years). The pre-K, K, and elementary education seems to be quite stellar. If money were no object, there would not be too much more to consider.

The toddler program I was a bit more iffy over. I think this is largely due to the fact that the school is based on the French educational model, where children start school at age 2. So there is sort of a feeling that they just aren’t equipped to handle the varying levels of baby to toddler needs. For example, toddlers have three rooms separated by age levels… but the first class (which begins at 18 months) don’t advance into the next class until they are potty trained. Will wasn’t potty trained until after he was 3 years old… does that mean he would have been in the room with 18 month olds? And what happens if a child regresses back into diapers? Or has a lot of repeated accidents? (Note: Will has had three accidents in the last week… it’s been a rough week.) Hmmm. It makes me wonder about whether or not it would be a good place for Kate? (The teachers seemed fantastic, however. And the parents were thrilled.)

The school is $6,900 a year (Kate, if we decided to keep them at the same school and put her in the toddlers program, would be $400 cheaper for two more years). That cost does not include after hours (school ends at 3:30) or summer programs. Tuition is paid upfront — with extras for tuition insurance (in case you have to unenroll your child mid-year) and more if you want to space out your payments monthly. Paul and I could not pay for it without continuing to work multiple jobs, as we’re currently doing to pay for daycare. Doable, yes… but paying for elementary education is still a major hurdle for me to accept. The school is definitely more diverse than others but does not have the kind of diversity seen in the public schools.

What I love about the school: it combines what I feel is most important about early education. Strong socialization, exposure to multiple languages (it is 100% complete French immersion — the kids are bilingual by 2nd grade), and nurturing environment. The fact that all of the teachers are French and many of the children are also from French families give the school a neat European flare. These are all really important to me. One of the reasons we like living in NOLA is that we have the options for immersion education into other languages. It’s the next best thing to living abroad, which is how we initially thought we would help give our kids the gift of language comprehension. (This has always been a core value for us.) But, in NOLA, you can get language exposure in other schools… just not necessarily as early as Ecole and not necessarily in as small and friendly an environment.

Just one more thing for us to consider. We will continue to look at schools in the next few months (application deadlines are coming soon!)