Rezoning: An Ode to my Neighborhood & School

My newspaper, local television stations, and Facebook feeds are flaming with irate parents throwing temper tantrums over our local elementary school rezoning proposals. It happens every few years, it’s just another round of shouting, fist pounding, and chest beating; in the past I’ve calmly turned my back on it just as I ignored my 2-year-old’s fits. Of course no one wants to shift their kids from the schools they love or move them to a bad school, but one of the schools they are outraged their kids may attend is…OUR school.

Why is my son’s elementary school worthy of such contempt and outrage? We’re not talking about a destitute inner-city facility. It’s just another highly-rated suburban neighborhood school. Most of us who send our kids there are not dirt poor, nor are we wealthy. We have a slightly higher percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunch. Some believe that means the education their precious babes might receive at our school would be inferior, and they fear their property values will nosedive if their children are forced to attend a slightly less affluent school.

I disagree.

And frankly, I’m insulted.

A large chunk of the kids come from my neighborhood. And I love my neighborhood. We painstakingly chose this place to be our forever home, the place where we’d settle and raise our family long before we began buying pregnancy tests and pacifiers.

The average home here has 3.5 bedrooms, a two-car garage, a Honda in the driveway, and a swing-set nestled beside an in-ground pool in the backyard. We have basketball hoops instead of tennis courts. Our homes are around my age—and like women my age, some have undergone extensive remodeling and look peppier than when they were twenty; some have let themselves go a bit.

It’s a neighborhood where I feel safe with my windows open and my glass door spread wide to let in the babble of the pool and the aroma of orange blossoms.

At the heart of this neighborhood sits a park, where I’m spread out on a blanked with a book in my lap on a gorgeous January afternoon. Sunlight filters through a canopy of oak leaves and shines a puzzle of shapes over the kids tearing up the slide during a fierce game of tag. Over on the baseball diamond, a father plays Frisbee with his kids; he calls out each toss and catch like a Mexican soccer announcer. Another father/son pair passes by wearing matching crisp golf tournament visors.

A toddler’s birthday party spills from the new pavilion. Festive balloons and streamers billow in the breeze, and the aroma of something slightly more exotic than hot dog carries on a drift of balmy air. Bratwurst? Chorizo? It smells like heaven.

The kids are as colorful as the party decor; smiles radiate from faces of every shade between marshmallow pale to an ebony rich as dark chocolate. You’re more likely to hear the kids calling out names like Aiden or Jack, but chances are you’ll  hear a Lashawn and a Jose, too. The kids don’t care. You are welcome as long as you know how to play freeze tag.

A girl striking enough to be on the cover of Teen Vogue (should she trade Nike trainers for heels) bickers with her mom in a sing-song Portuguese. Later, when she chats on her iPhone, every cadence of accent evaporates.

Yes, the teens and moms carry  far more Coach bags than Louis Vuittons. I myself am sporting a metal bike basket passed down from my Grandfather, now loaded down with picnic gear. No one has given it a second glance.

Families arrive pushing strollers and pulling wagons, by foot, by mini van, or on bicycles, like us. This park backs up to a 14-mile paved trail, and we’re still recovering from our 7-mile bike ride under its cathedral of trees. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on a Sunday afternoon than soaking in this tranquility.

During the sweltering summer months, day campers descend upon our park; my son and a few hundred other kids run wild over the four-square court and the kickball fields. It’s not a formally structured educational camp; the kid wranglers counselors are local teens. There are no equestrian lessons or overnight escapes to the mountains, but there are plenty of trips to the theme parks and Chuck E. Cheese. He loves it.

This park, this neighborhood, this school brims with good kids and hard-working families. More of us may be social workers than CEO’s, but we are good enough for you.

We  love our school, our teachers, our staff. They graciously receive more homemade cookie baskets than day spa certificates come Christmas, but they not only teach our kids, but love our kids just the same. Our PTA does not run the school with a bejeweled fist. I rather like it better that way.

I pity those parents who chose to hold themselves above us, who waste so much precious time fretting over how our school may be detrimental to their kids lives. It’s their loss.

If their PTA is better than ours—fine—please come share your success stories and help build our group up. We’ll listen. Volunteer here, share your time and knowledge; you’ll see you are no better or worse than us. You’ll be welcome—if you are kind, and if you care about your kids as much as we care about ours.

We all want our kids to succeed. But the people of this county voted for the elected officials who have gutted the education budget. The school system must adjust to the cuts whether we like it or not. Why cause our school board to spend any of its insufficient funds fighting these battles? Let’s take that time, that energy, and use it to help our kids instead of dividing them. Let’s keep that money in the classroom instead of the courthouse.

And if my kid somehow ends up shifting schools… Will I be “happy?” No. I’m sure many tears will fall. No one likes change. But we’ll accept our fate. We will support our child and his school no matter what.

25 thoughts on “Rezoning: An Ode to my Neighborhood & School

  1. Stacie

    There was a rezoning in our neighborhood right before we moved here (2 years ago) and people are still upset about it. I thin it was more that they didn't want change, not that they disliked the new school. Your neighborhood looks lovely!
    My recent post Growing Jeans

  2. Jared Karol

    Great description of your neighborhood. I felt like I was there, riding my bike down your street. Thank you for that. I live in Oakland, where some of what you talk about goes on here too. It's saddening how openly people talk w/ such negativity about certain schools and/or neighborhoods. Our kids aren't grade school aged yet, so we have a year or so before we have to worry about it. I hope all goes well for you. . .
    My recent post Books on Sunday Chapter 2: January 13, 2013 – Kafka and Kaepernick

  3. Tomekha

    If you cut us, do we not bleed? … I'm tired of these superficial differences we make to separate ourselves. *sighs* smh

  4. jennypenny007

    I basically wanted to uproot and move to your neighborhood as I read your description of it, even though I live in a similar neighborhood and perhaps because I'm of a similar demographic. We could have sent our child to a private school, if we scraped together everything we had, but I didn't want her to be in a school with virtually no diversity. I also didn't want *her* to be considered the whole of the diversity. We have been rewarded tenfold for our decision to not jump on the elitist bandwagon. We are not rich, but her school life is rich, and in the end, when those PTA members with a bejeweled fist have to give in or get out, I trust many of them will learn the lesson you're trying to impart.
    My recent post Top 10 Uses for My Post-Partum Gut Roll

  5. icescreammama

    i hate this. (not your essay, your essay is great). but it's such a shame. your neighborhood sounds lovely. change of course is always difficult, but hopefully, they will realize how lucky they are to be there.

  6. Jen

    That sounds like a beautiful neighborhood. I'm glad you took the time to describe it to us and defend it against the crybabies and the gnashers of teeth who don't want their little snowflakes in such an *obviously* detrimental environment.
    My recent post Learning with my hands

  7. Larks

    I cannot even express how much it irks me when people look at the number of kids on free and reduced lunch and make sweeping generalizations based on that. As if poor = stupid or violent or lazy. People need to go visit a school, talk to the teachers, read the curriculum, engage with the parents, and get over the straight up classist assumption that more Louis Voulton bags at school means a better education.
    My recent post What's in a name?

  8. Gina

    Love the description of where you live. It sounds wonderful.

    Loads of years ago this happened in our area where two towns share middle and high school. Our town was considered by the other as the ugly stepsister (it wasn't and they called us the "Clarendon Hillbillies") and the new middle school would be here. The redistricting would send 1/4 of their town here. All said and done…our school got the best teachers from their school. They then complained that their area wasn't redistricted properly and wanted the teachers back. Its smoothed over, and my kids got a great education, but I still have a bad taste. Change is hard but it is one of the few certainties in life.

  9. Sue - The Spin Cycle

    This kind of thing happens in our school district all the time. No wonder so many children today have such an attitude of entitlement, what with their parents pitching hissyfits over re-zoning.
    My recent post Laptops, Urine, and Pavlov

  10. Julia

    This sounds so familiar. I live in a township where the schools have a bad rep because they keep redistricting. It really doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the schools or the community. This makes me sad cause your neighborhood sounds like a wonderful place to live.

  11. morgan

    There is nothing quite like a mother-bear/father-bear response to a possible threat to their child! And oftentimes for no tangible reason. Personally, I would love to plop myself down in the middle of your neighborhood and put down some roots, too …. but then I'd miss our neighborhood school – because it really is the best, ya know!: )
    My recent post Wanted:

  12. Shell

    Your neighborhood sounds a lot like mine.

    I hope the redistricting goes smoothly and people realize it's not the end of the world(I type and then think OMG, I do not want my boys to switch schools).


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