We want to update our readers on how school is progressing for our children. We confess that this is a major hurdle that made us hesitate about relocating to Florida. How would the schools in Florida compare to those in Wisconsin? Our son is special needs and has an IEP in place, so we needed to make sure the level of services he receives in Florida would be comparable to what was established in his Wisconsin IEP.
We attended the open house the Thursday afternoon prior to the start of school. We made sure to inform all the teachers that our children were new, because quite frankly, it was a little overwhelming for them. We received the schedules, and then went room to room to meet the teachers. The school has three buildings; the first building is the office, but the other two buildings hold the classrooms. Here is a view from the bridge that connects the buildings:
Their new school is approximately twice as big as the middle school they would have attended in Wisconsin. On days when there is lightning, and let’s face it, this is Florida, so probably a weekly occurrence :-), they have “lightning lockdowns” where the students are not allowed to go between buildings if it is storming. It is interesting to note, however, that even though there are over 1,100 students attending here, the average class size is between 22-25 students, which is lower than what they would have experienced in Wisconsin.
We discovered that information is not given freely here to new families arriving. At open house, we questioned his advisory teacher, and discovered that Ben was just to be dropped off at school. At this point in time, we were grateful that Catie attended the same school, as she is able to walk Ben to his aide. However, we were not informed exactly how long the line gets at pick-up time. We’ve discovered that we need to leave the house at 3:15 for a 4:00 dismissal time, just to stake our place in line. It would have been nice to have learned this information at open house, and thus help Ben avoid the couple of meltdowns he had while waiting for us to progress through the line that first day.
Overall we feel school is going well for the children. We’ve had a couple of bumps with Ben, but they’ve been easily resolved, and we feel his teachers are committed to making sure he succeeds. Catie was able to get into a chorus class, which she was thrilled with. We do wish that orchestra was offered here, as Catie plays the violin, but we knew before we moved that it was not, and of the two, chorus is a better option. Catie has a gift for singing and aspires one day to pursue this professionally. The school is monitored closely: identification is required to pick your child up from school early–they do check it against the computer records and require a signature– and a note is required for an excused absence upon return to the school. A little more strict than what we’re used to, but it’s all good.
If you are planning to relocate to Florida, we recommend researching and contacting the schools prior to your move, to get a feel of what they might be like. You can usually tell from contact with the staff the atmosphere of the school.