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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The dilemma

I cannot believe it, but the time has come to start pondering kindergarten for Elise.  How did this happen? Wasn't it just yesterday that she made her grand entrance into this world? Shouldn't she still be babbling and cooing, all snuggled in my arms?

Isn't she due for a diaper change right about now?

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Okay... Focus.

So. Kindergarten. And the dilemma. Once again I need your advice.

We are zoned for what I will call "school A". This school is about a 10 minute drive from our house. The kids in our neighbourhood take a bus (this will not be an option for Elise since there is no way I will put her on the bus at such a young age) to get there. In years past, it didn't have the best reputation, but they now have a new principal and things are turning around. My neighbour who sends her kids there says it is wonderful. A former neighbour who teaches there says the same.

"School B" is about 2 minute drive from our house. Although Elise couldn't walk there because she would need to cross two very busy streets, it is a lot quicker to get to AND right across the street from the preschool Mattias attends. It has an excellent reputation, and is an "exceptional" school (I think that's what the ranking is called). There is also a ton of parental involvement.

I was told I could petition for Elise to be sent to the closer school for medical reasons, and I so I was thinking of talking to the principals/nurses/kindergarten teachers at each school to see who I get a better vibe from.

 And this is where I ask you to help me with my dilemma.  What should I ask? What is important to know? What would ask if you were me?

I really want Elise to be in a school that will care as much about her as her preschool has (although I'm pretty sure that's impossible, her preschool rocks!). Right now I'm not leaning either way and I'm waiting to talk to each school before I form an opinion.

So if you have any pearls of wisdom, send them my way!  Please help me DOC... You're my only hope.

***At this point, if I had mad photo shopping skills, I'd include a picture of my head on Princess Leia's body.  But since I lack the talent and time, do me a favour and picture it in your head, m'kay?***

11 comments:

  1. It's time for the big K...no way! Wish I had some pearls of wisdom but since I can't even find a preschool for my little guy... I will be waiting to hear what others suggest. Hang in there Momma,I think help is on the way!

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  2. We haven't had a choice of schools since pre-school, but we've found that staff experience with diabetes has mattered much less than their comfort level with it and their willingness to work closely with us to come up with the best plan for my daughter. I'd be less concerned about how many kids they've had with diabetes (though it's a good question to ask), than about how they would help your child create a workable diabetes routine at school. Are they talking about learning, meeting other kids...all the regular Kindergarten stuff, and how her diabetes routine can work around it? Are they concerned about her being as much of a 'regular kid' as she can be?
    How would they educate staff and other kids about diabetes?
    Do you feel comfortable with these people? You'll be talking/e-mailing/ meeting with them regularly. Does your daughter seem comfortable with them?
    In a nutshell my sense is that questions are good because conversation must happen, but more of what you're looking for is less concrete...how do you feel about the overall situation when you leave? Are these people open to your and your child's needs and willing to do everything they can to make her school experience as great as it can be?

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  3. Personally I would like a closer school but I agree that staff experience with diabetes is important.

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  4. My gut instinct is to say School B. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to "cover" a school nurse to give injections or run to the school to check a pump site or to check her blood ketones or refill supplies...closer is, in my opinion, better.

    What I want to know is: 1) What's your current protocol for a student with diabetes and 2) Are you willing to work with me & my child to alter that protocol (within reason, of course) to fit our needs?

    When Ella was diagnosed, we just automatically did what the school told us to do. After a while, I started questioning some of their standard practices: Well, why does she always have to go to the office to test versus test in class? Why can't we find a way to separate her snack/lunch by 2 hours? Why do her supplies stay locked up in the office versus on her body?

    Ella's school has been willing to work with us and I don't always get my way, but we've been able to compromise and work towards a way that incorporates a little of what I want and a little of what they want.

    And I think if you can find THAT school, you'll be happy.

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  5. I'd ask...
    Have you had any students with T1 or experience with T1?
    Do you email or text (the teachers)?
    Will you let her check BG in class or am I gonna have to fight you for this? (even if you don't necessarily think she needs her checker in class right now, you may want her to have it in class in 1st grade)
    What are your opinions on 504 plans?
    What is the school policy on classroom treats?
    Do you have a full time nurse or health tech on staff?
    How many staff members are willing to train on T1 and glucagon?
    Are you willing to have a JDRF or ADA rep or CDE come to school to train you?
    Are both schools full day or half day Kindergarten?
    What is the average student count in your classrooms?

    Good luck! Kortnie was dx'd a few months into Kindergarten and I feel like I was thrown to the wolves sending her back to school, but luckily she was only 1/2 day 8am-1045am, we kept her test kit in the nurses office and she rarely had to do a check at school, and they told me I didn't need a 504, but an IEP would do. But by 1st grade when I was better educated I told them she needed her test kit in class, and as for the 504, I've stuck with the IEP because it works for us, but next year she is going to a new school with a whole new staff and I am freaking out a little, but am also planning on starting the new school with a 504 plan.

    Think about what is important to you that you have seen others post about or complain about and start writing down you questions so you don't forget them between now and then.

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  6. We actually faced this when Ethan was going to start Kinder, I figured it wasn't right to move him based on Isaac's needs - so instead we decided to start him wherever it would be best for both of them.
    1. I started with my local JDRF/support group and asked them what they'd heard about the two schools I had in question - asked for names, email, etc of previous families that had gone through the school.
    2. I drove to the school, took tours, and asked about their basic plan for all students, what their curriculum was like. We ended the tour in the office near the nurses area, in both schools, this then lead to a great discussion with the nurses that are full time in both schools on how they helped keep their students with t1 able to stay in the classroom and remain healthy. Since I knew I didn't want Isaac pulled out I figured this was a good starting point.
    3. I met the principal for I know that if there are any major issues or concerns they are the ones that I will take it up with if the nurse isn't handling things safely, in one case the principal acted very busy and unwilling to answer to specifics - the other principal gave me his direct line, email and a guarantee that each child is taken care of as if they were his own at his school.
    4. I got a feel for the school, realizing that there is a chance I may be there frequently I wanted it to be a place I would want to be at - I attended a PTA mtg and I met the PTA president and several committee chairs, again at the first school they weren't as friendly but at the second they were overwhelmingly caring.
    5. I went with my gut, filled out the paperwork and was delighted with the result.
    AND I AM STILL NERVOUS FOR NEXT YEAR!
    Isaac will be starting next year and I know all will be okay, but darn it there is a lot of planning that needs to take place along with a lot of letting go - wish me luck as I know I'll be thinking of you guys, too :)

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  7. I brought M in to meet the nurse in person and ask her any questions that she wanted and to see if she felt comfortable with her. It was interesting to watch the nurse interact with her, and it gave me a sense of how comfortable the nurse was with diabetes. The nurse sets the tone for the entire school's acceptance or lack thereof, of your child's disease. Be aware that elementary teachers and nurses have far less experience with type 1 than middle and high school teachers and nurses. It's a numbers game: as kids get older, they are more likely to be diagnosed. I have spoken to many 1st and 2nd grade parents who have lamented that their child is the only one in the school with type 1. In the high school where I teach we have about 10 kids every year who have it. Good luck. It's tough one. But follow your instincts. Nothing has served you better thus far!

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  8. Ask about the qualifications of the 'nurse'. Some schools don't have FT nurse, RN preferrable. Also, talk about what you want in the 504 plan. Make sure they seem comfortable and amenable. I send my two T1D boys to school every day, and sometimes it's gut wrenching. They have a nurse, glucose in their bags, snacks at the nurse, and emergency kit in the classrooms.

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  10. The nurse is the key! The school we are zoned in has a nurse's aid full-time and a nurse that is shared throughout the district. BAD! We chose to open-enroll Lily into a school that is a five minute drive up the road because they offered half-day kindergarten (instead of mandatory all-day, everyday) and the nurse is housed in the school, a very short walk down the hall from her classroom, full time. Full-time nurse is a key for us. I say visit each of the schools for their K-roundup night, meet with the nurse and principal and see which school has the better vibe. Whichever one you choose, you are going to make the right decision because it's not just the school that is the key, it's also the fact that you'll be there, working right alongside them, providing Elise with the best possible care and consideration and learning!

    FYI....your Canadian is showing! Neighbor vs. Neighbour!

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  11. All things being equal -- I'd opt for the school that you are zoned in so she can can be in school with her neighborhood peers. We have an awesome part-time nurse which works (who can come anytime necessary, but covers two schools). We have a accomodating pricipal and great secretaries too. Teachers change every year -- so support staff is key, but the nurse does set the tone.

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