family & parenting

Why the Ventura Parent Next to You is Biting Their Nails

Ventura Breeze, Jan. 26, 2011

By Rebecca Wicks

This Friday, Jan. 28 is the last day Ventura Unified School District accepts School of Choice forms for the fall 2011 academic year. This means a good number of parents are currently fretting over where to apply to local public school.

Yes, apply.

Yes, it’s January with the next school year starting eight months from now. Yes, it may seem crazy for many who simply went to the elementary school closest to their house.

However now, like many other elements of our lives there are more options.

Options include everything from magnet schools and open classroom format programs to two-way immersion Spanish language programs.

The catch: parents need to apply for these programs and a lottery determines which children will have an opportunity to attend.

Approximately 1100 applications – available now at — were received last year according to Suzanna Sanchez, a child welfare and attendance specialist at the school district.

“I am personally considering 5 different schools,” said Katie Pearson whose son will enter Kindergarten next year. “Part of me wants to just go to my local neighborhood school, but there are so many factors to consider.”

Many parents agree. And, the choices themselves are many.

“We are leaning toward the two-way immersion program,” said Anna Belitski. “I feel my son would benefit so much from being in a diverse classroom with multiple languages and cultures present.”

The two-way immersion program is a bilingual English and Spanish curriculum available at two elementary schools including Montalvo and Will Rogers, Anacapa Middle School and Ventura High School. The program’s aim is to produce students fully literate in both English and Spanish.

“I looked at three schools when deciding where to send my daughter last year,” said Katie Shinden, mother of three. “I wanted something a little different and loved the philosophy behind the Open Classroom program at Blanche Reynolds.”

The program, which has a “whole child” approach is considered unorthodox by many. The school embraces a less-structured format and includes a healthy dose of art, music and science in addition to the regular English and math requirements. The school also requires parents to volunteer a minimum of four hours a week.

Mound Elementary School, a math magnet school which sets a higher academic bar for its young students remains one of the most popular programs applied for. Last year approximately 200 applications were turned in for the school, with about half of the students accepted.

“We are thrilled with Mound,” said Darcy Wronkiewicz who received notice her son secured a spot at the school a week into the school year. “It is a very challenging environment for the kids and parent involvement is a must, but I believe kids benefit from having relationships with a lot of different parents.”

There are two other magnet schools in Ventura including the new De Anza Academy of Technology & the Arts, a middle school and Foothill Technology High School which remains the most popular with approximately 600 applications received last year. About half of those students were accepted to the high school.

Other programs available through the School of Choice application form include the Homestead School (K-8) which offers resources to parents who chose to homeschool; Ventura Technology Academy at Saticoy (K and 5th grade); Sunset (K-8) and El Camino High School which offers a nonconventional educational environment for independent study.

Of course many parents will simply send their kids to their local public school. And, many will be happy they did. But for some guilt seems to be a driving force in the consideration of other schools.

“The options are public and free, so why not look at them,” said Sally Rhodes who recently moved to Ventura and has been gathering information. “I feel it’s my responsibility as a parent to see what is out there, especially if it’s at no additional cost for us.”

The lottery will take place in February with a police officer and others present.

“We used to draw names out of box, but it took too long and became logistically difficult,” explained Sanchez.

In recent years a formula was designed for the school district that assigns random numbers to names in an excel document. The formula is implemented with the SRO (student resource officer) and other witnesses present.

Parents are notified of lottery results in late February.