For the past three years my son has attended a local Montessori pre-school that we adore. While I have begged them to add offerings up to a PhD program, they stop at kindergarten. So now I am looking at what to do for first grade next year.
I've talked with my breeder buddies about their choices and started researching the options for Portland schools.
I noticed a trend among folks who were Portland dwellers for years and went on to have kids - they moved away within five years. Upon realizing the limitations of the Portland public schools, they headed to the burbs for a better school system. They argued that the money they would have spent on private school while living in Portland could be better invested in a nice house in a district with more resources. These same folks seem to have dropped into an abyss and are never seen in Portland after 5 p.m.
I am committed to being a peninsula person but I also have my hesitations about the local public school offerings being the best fit for my child. He is an extremely reserved individual with an appreciation for quiet and order. (Kudos to Montessori for producing a child who is the polar opposite of his mother.) Hence, home schooling is out of the question.
We have checked out Breakwater School, The Friends School and Waynflete this month. Next month is the Many Rivers program at Hall (an experiential school within a public school), Reiche (the public school for our neighborhood) and the East End School (a brand new elementary public school at the top of Munjoy Hill.)
My early favorite is Friends School, a new Quaker school that opened up on Macworth Island. They share the island and facilities with the Baxter School for the Deaf. The location and philosophy are an oasis. Their challenge is their newness. Having opened two years ago, they are still figuring out their structure and are limited in all their "specials" (educational lingo for the non-core elements of the curriculum, i.e. all the fun stuff).
Then there is Waynflete where they have specials galore. First graders get art, music, gym and movement class every week. Intimate class sizes, an abundance of resources and highly trained teachers makes it extremely attractive. Plus it is a stone's throw from our house. The challenge: I would need a massive financial aid package to swing the annual tuition of $16,530.
It's been such a trip to experience Portland as a parent and to have my perception of place continue to evolve as my son ages. I find myself interacting with a new and different set of people, going places I never expected and seeing the city in a new light.
I am curious how our school choice will further color how I see Portland. The one thing I do I know is that I won't be seeing it in my rear view mirror as I drive home to my 'burb bungalow.
Jessica Tomlinson lives in Portland and is the public relations director for the Maine College of Art.
WebsitesFriends School of Portland: Waynflete School: Breakwater School: Portland Public School: