When I was seven, my family moved from one town to another, at least partially to move us to a better school district. It’s not that strange in America really – the idea that consumers can vote with their feet, and if they think the schools in the neighboring school district (or, indeed, in a neighboring or non-neighboring state) are better, you can sell your house and move.
It’s not so easy when you’re a parent of a child with special-needs who has an IEP.
Now… truth time. R is going into Kindergarten in the fall. We’re debating where to send him – whether to send him to our “zone school” (where the Monster went for his very-much-a-failure attempt at integration in first grade), keep him at the JCC for another year, or try to get him into a charter school. An option you’ll notice that’s not on this list is the idea of moving to put him into a school in the county… which would ordinarily be a good option. (I should note that any of these choices we listed above are actually pretty fantastic – the zone school is one of the best in the city, the charters we’re looking at are great schools, and the J is a fine choice. We’re not tearing ourselves down between a bevy of bad options.) One option that’s very complicated, though, is the idea of moving to the neighboring county. Schools there are also very good, with more resources for all of their students, and the increased resources would probably do R a lot of good, given how smart he is.
There are also very good financial and practical reasons for us to discuss moving. Much of our lives are out in the county, from the shul we worship at, to the JCC, to my in-laws living out there. Taxes are lower (significantly – the city is the highest-tax jurisdiction in the state). The places we’re looking at wouldn’t negatively impact my commute to work, and would only minimally impact my commute to the curling club, but… it would be quite a change, and would mean selling a house that I’ve been in, in one fashion or another, for my entire life.
The problem… is that the Monster’s IEP is done by the city schools. His assignment to the non-public placement he’s currently at is done by the city, as are his service levels. You’re reading that right – despite being in the same state and all, every single jurisdiction has their own IEP process, and aren’t required to take IEPs from others. If we moved so much as two blocks north, into the county, we’d have to restart the whole IEP process, get the Monster’s services set up, and then they’d determine the least restrictive placement for him. While he’d be allowed to stay at his current school during the interim, they’d be able to re-decide where he should go on their own, which might well be one of their own programs.
It’s not a choice that we’re willing to make without a lot of forethought and preparation to re-involve an advocate and possibly an attorney once more. And unless we genuinely find the perfect house to move into or something massively changes… his IEP is probably the single largest matter that would drive any decision to move.