Here’s How a New Orleans Mom Found the Right School For Her Family in the Pandemic
When I met Tatiana, I was struck by how invested she was in the long-term process of getting her kids the best educational opportunities she could find. She was already thinking ahead to her second child’s education, and she had only just found out she was pregnant with him.
When it came time to choose a kindergarten for her daughter, Julieta, Tatiana was incredibly persistent in understanding the school landscape and what options are out there. School choice in New Orleans is complex, and the normal challenges of the process were compounded by the fact that Tatiana and her wife were looking at schools in the middle of the pandemic—when they couldn’t even visit in person. Choosing the right school shouldn’t be as complicated as it is, but Tatiana adapted beautifully to the complexity of the situation. Hopefully that has paid off now with a great choice she feels good about. Her commitment and dedication to the process is truly a testament to who she is as a parent.
– Meghan Stroh, New Orleans Navigator
“I’m from Colombia and my wife is from Honduras, so we knew we wanted a bilingual school. We applied for pre-K to an advanced studies school, but my daughter didn’t make it. So I made a Plan B and a Plan C and a Plan D and E, because this is New Orleans.
Plan B was a school near our house, which has immersion in French and Spanish. And Plan C was another bilingual school, but not as close to my house. Julieta got admitted to both. I thought she would go to the closer school, but then I was talking to a friend of mine and she said, you know, I think the other one is a bit more diverse.
Then I’m like, what I’m going to do? I don’t know where to put my kid. There’s so many things to think about. Yes, I’m thinking about the language programs, but then I realized I also have to think about diversity, and the community, and all these other things. Especially coming from a house of two moms. You assume acceptance is a very common thing, but it’s not. You have to think about how people will see a family like ours.
My Navigator, Meghan, helped me make this list of pros and cons. It had all the information about the two schools side by side, like school hours—which was another very important factor for us because I work 8 to 4:30 so I need that longer day—lunch options, before and after care, diversity—all of those things were on the list. That information is available on the school websites, but Meghan made it very simple in bullet points for me, so it wasn’t overwhelming. For me, I’m always on the run, I have a zillion things to do, and those school webpages are so complicated to navigate. A lot of people don’t know all that’s there and available until someone walks them through it.
I also started asking around. I’m in every single mommy group that you can think of. I went to my LGBT families, and I heard comments from different parents saying, ‘Yeah, I have my kid here and they were making fun of him for having two moms,’ or ‘the teachers have been super supportive,’ that kind of thing. I got the sense that the school further from my house was going to be more open-minded and accepting of different kinds of families. There’s more of an LGBT community there. It also had longer after-hours care, theater, arts, sports, all these things. So we looked at all of that.
Because of COVID, everything has been online. If you ask me about our new school, I don’t even know where it is. I’ve never been inside the school. And Julieta has never visited. We had to make this decision without visiting any of these places, so it was intimidating. I never thought choosing a school was going to be so complicated.
But now that we’ve made the decision, we’re getting excited. With Julieta, I’m just preparing her to be learning in Spanish. If she wants to watch a movie, I’ll put it on in Spanish. I’m reminding her that she’s about to go to school where everyone speaks Spanish, and that’s a very exciting thing. She’s excited about learning how to read, too. We pick out five books to read every night. We have to narrow it down sometimes, because otherwise I’ll be reading books all night. I think she’s going to do great. She’s this bright little mind. I think she needs that challenge.
As I’ve been supporting Julieta in the transition into school, Meghan has been supporting me. Who knows where my daughter would be going to school right now without Meghan’s help. It has made the transition a lot easier. It just takes a weight off of my shoulders to know that I have someone to reach out to, who has my back through the process.”
This piece originally ran on EdNavigator.