Signed, sealed, but not delivered

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Can you believe it? It’s the first week in June and Smartmom still doesn’t know where the Oh So Feisty One will be going to middle school in September.

Blame the Department of Education, which revamped the admissions process mid-year and kept parents and guidance counselors in the dark.

All the parents are stressed out. Where, o where, will our fifth graders be going to school next year?

Is that too much to ask?

It’s all very dispiriting, and Smartmom is on edge. The guidance counselor at PS 321 told Smartmom last week that she’d heard from the Department of Education via e-mail that they were going to send out the letters on Friday.

“Look for it on Saturday or Monday,” the guidance counselor told Smartmom hopefully. She also said, “I don’t make any promises.” She looked frustrated, too.

On Saturday morning, OSFO pumped Smartmom for information.

“What time does the mail come? When does the mailman get here? Is the mail here yet?”

When Smartmom finally went down to the mailbox at 2 pm, there were two Netflix (“Flubber” and “Twitches”) and some junk mail in there. But no letter from the city.

Oh well. OSFO didn’t seem that upset. In fact, she didn’t seem to care all that much.

“Maybe it’ll come on Monday,” she told Smartmom, who was feeling mildly apoplectic. The topic didn’t come up again.

On Monday, Smartmom found herself on edge all morning. Even Hepcat was jittery thinking about OSFO’s letter. Smartmom ran into the wonderful Third Street postman in front of Miracle Grill.

“Do you have our letters from the Department of Education?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he told her.

“It’s like waiting for college acceptances,” she said.

He told her he’d get to their building in a couple of hours.

A couple of hours sounded like an eternity. Feeling buzzed with impatience, Smartmom called a friend whose son is in the fifth grade with OSFO.

“No letter today,” her friend, who also seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, told Smartmom.

Irked by that news, Smartmom checked the Inside Schools Web site to see if there was any information there. She found this:

“Andy Jacob of the Department of Education says, ‘Some middle school letters went out late last week. The rest should go out today. Parents should receive the letters this week. Parents expecting letters who haven’t received them by [June 9] should contact their child’s guidance counselor. Acceptances are due June 12.’”

June 9? Only some letters went out last week? Which ones? Was OSFO’s mailed?

She also heard that Councilman (and public school parent) Bill DeBlasio (pictured) was demanding accountability, but Smartmom was still mad. Why can’t the Department of Education just be honest? Why did the agency tell the guidance counselor when the letters would go out? Why do they put the guidance counselors in an untenable position?

Don’t they understand that Smartmom (like all parents) needs a mental picture of what her daughter’s life will be like next year?

It’s only fair.

Will OSFO walk the three blocks to MS 51, alma mater of her big brother Teen Spirit, or will she ride the Seventh Avenue bus to New Voices on 18th Street and Seventh Avenue?

Or will she be taking the Fifth Avenue bus to Explorations in Math and Science on Dean Street?

It just doesn’t seem fair that the city should leave Smartmom — and the kids — in the dark. What’s so hard about figuring out where hundreds of thousands of children go to school?

Isn’t that what computers are for?

OK, it’s a lot of kids. But they’ve managed in the past to get the information to parents before June.

OSFO and her classmates are in the midst of a major transition. In less than a month, they will be leaving the familiar world of elementary school and embarking on the rest of their lives.

And they still don’t know what September looks like. Truth is, they don’t seem to mind all that much. Maybe it’s making them feel more bonded to the present moment. Unlike Smartmom, OSFO seems able to exist without knowing which school she’s going to next year. It’s the parents who can’t seem to live in the here and now.

OSFO was more anxious about when she was going to get her bright blue fifth-grade T-shirt, decorated with the signatures of all her classmates.

She got it on Tuesday and she’s thrilled; a cherished item already reeking with nostalgia.

She was required to wear it to the fifth-grade field day this week. She may even wear it on their trip to Hyde Park to see the childhood home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

On the outside, the kids seem to be taking the transition in stride. It’s hard to know how they’re feeling inside. Are they freaking out like their parents? Probably not.

The mail carrier came and went — and no letter. Smartmom told OSFO, who was listening to the “Juno” soundtrack on her iPod, that there was no letter. She didn’t seem to mind. Her mother on the other hand…

• • •

Postscript: On Wednesday, Smartmom learned that OSFO would not be getting a letter at all. “She’s not on the list,” the PS 321 parent coordinator said. Smartmom felt weak in the knees.

It was some kind of computer glitch. She probably got into a school. Somewhere. Smartmom repeatedly told OSFO not to worry, that this will all work out, that it has absolutely nothing to do with her, that everything is OK.

OSFO seems totally fine. But Smartmom is agitated, annoyed, on edge, shaky.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 4:01 pm, November 10, 2010
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