Subjective Thoughts on Decatur

April 25, 2009 at 5:16 am 36 comments

A commenter here has been offered a spot at Decatur with a few days to decide about it so I thought I’d offer up my thoughts on the place.  These are based on my 1 personal visit and reports from other parents over the past couple years (remember, I start every conversation with “where does your child go to school?”)
Before I toured Decatur I had heard that the school was a bit strict and the administration kind of controlling and uptight.  I’d heard that parents are not really welcomed into the building (like if you are picking up your child and you need to go in to use the bathroom, forget it.)  I’d also heard that in the time period AFTER school notifications, they give minimal (possibly no) school tours – kind of with the attitude of “you should have done your homework ahead of time.” 
So I attended the tour with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, intenting to ask about the anti-parents policy.  Well, I could not have been more surprised.  The principal seemed warm and friendly.  The school “vibe” was very positive (althought the school was freezing) and the students all looked truly engaged in their learning.  The principal or teacher would have kids in some of the classes speak to us and of course with all these 99%+ kids, it was very impressive.  The racial diversity was like a parent’s dream. The teachers looked motivated and engaged.  And I DID ask about their acceptance of parents in the school and although they didn’t promise that one could come in to pee, they certainly embrace parental involvement in appropriate school activities (and of course fundraising.)  I left the tour wanting my son to go there.
Regarding academics, the test scores are fantastic, but of course when you’re taking all 99% kids you’re off to a good start.  I was a little freaked out when the principal stated that kids are pretty much expected to be reading at the first grade level right from the start and will be given minimal time to catch up.  I’m sure the kids who actually test in have no trouble.
The “Classical” thing puts a unique spin on the place.  Kids learn Latin and tap-dancing as part of a “classical” eduction which is cool but I picture a lot of these kids getting their asses kicked when they get to high school if parents aren’t helping to raise their cool-factor a bit. 
I’ve heard that the discipline is pretty no-nonsense, even for Kindergarteners.  They simply don’t tolerate “bad” behavior and expect the parent to make it stop.  I think someone with a young boy who has a hard time sitting still could possibly be setting up their child for frustration.
One other challenge I’ve heard is that because Decatur is a small school that doesn’t have a neighborhood component, they face more hurdles in getting funding.  Parents can fundraise but they don’t have an aldeman or a neighborhood Friends-Of group rallying for them.  The building probably needs some updating (I think there is no lunchroom) but they’re basically at the mercy of CPS to help them.  On the other hand, there is a nice small-school feel to the place.  The teachers and admin probably know all the kids by name.

So overall, I think if you have a kid who tests in it’s worth a shot.  If your child is reading before Kindergarten you may not want them in a class where some kids are still learning their letter – it’s just a matter of preventing boredom (in my opinion.)  Just like any other CPS school, there will be some unique quirks about the place, there will be years when the teacher is fantastic and years when they’re not.    If you have a good neighborhood school, the benefits of attending there might outweigh the commute to a place like Decatur (or other magnet/gifted school.)  I think a lot of it come down to how much the child really *needs* an accelerated curriculum – if they really do, it’s probably worth the effort to get them there.

Disclaimer: These are my personal and biased opinions.  Please feel free to add yours in the comment box!

Entry filed under: Classical Schools. Tags: .

Gifted/Classical Schools (Magnets?) – Round 2 is about to begin Skinner North Tour May 16

36 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary  |  April 25, 2009 at 11:00 am

    What about Skinner West? Just got offered a spot there too – classical, but I have no info about it.

  • 2. Katie  |  April 25, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you so much for this information. It’s very helpful. I’ve genuinely been so touched through this process of figuring out this school ‘stuff’ how helpful complete strangers have been.
    cpsobsessed- I really appreciate that you took the time to post about Decatur.
    Giving up this spot in hopes for a gifted spot at Coonley (which would be so close to my house and make MY life much easier) would be crazy since no ‘majority’ kids are giving up spots, right? Keeping him at Audubon with our 1 minute commute would also make MY life easier. But I need to remember this isn’t about making MY life easier…it’s about what’s best for my son. We strongly lean towards taking the spot.
    I know the defintions for ‘gifted’ and ‘classical’ education…but is there really a huge difference in your opinion at CPS? Gifted just sounds so much ‘happier’ and ‘freer.’ Classical sounds so regimented and …i don’t know…I would like my son to also have fun.
    Does anyone know where I can find the bus boundaries for Decatur? Anyone sending their kindergartner on the bus?…just seems like a ‘scary’ prospect for several reasons including my son’s severe food allergies…

  • 3. another local  |  April 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Here’s the link for transportation boundaries:

    Decatur goes south to Fullerton and north to the city limits

  • 4. To Katie  |  April 27, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I think you have it mixed up. Classical is more free and less pressured. Unless, you are referring to more project based learning, which occurs in the gifted programs. Classical programs do offer project based learning just not as frequent. When the students at the gifted schools move up grade levels (i.e 5th/6th grade), I heard the work becomes more intense and the workload increases tremedously. Some children can’t cope with the stress.

  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  April 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Skinner West – I don’t personally know anyone who’s gone there – probably too far from my neighborhood. I know I’ve heard/read a blurb that it, like Decatur, we very focused on academics and discipline.
    If they’re going to take neighborhood kids now too,it might help the school as good, strong neighbor groups can add a lot of energy and fundraising efforts. With the new situation there, you are taking it on a leap of faith to some extent – but again, if your kid is really advanced, it is probably worth giving it a try (in my opinion.)

  • 6. cpsobsessed  |  April 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Gifted vs Classical – I was just discussing this on the playground at my son’s school (which is a gifted rgc.) CPS will tell you that they are 2 different philosophies but in practice they seem very similar (if not identical.) I wish the gifted programs were freer, let kids study things more in-depth, challenged the kids to use those supposed logical and critical thinking skills that they tested well on. In reality, it seems like it’s just a group of kids doing work on year ahead. I’m sure so much depends on the teacher and the school (and maybe what the parents push for?) But there certainly doesn’t seem to be any mandate coming down from CPS telling them to push things in a certain direction. I do know that Edison seems to give more advanced projects, but not sure if I can say they have sounded like cool, mentally engaging stuff. But hey, we’re getting this all for free. Pushing the envelope on progressive education should be done at all schools but with CPS’ big classes, limited budgets, and focus on testing, it is an uphill battle.
    Read the comment from “To Katie” which gives some good info about the programs in the higher grades (which I know little about – will have to look into that more.) That is exactly where I expect my son to bomb out – when the projects get more intense. Hopefully he’ll surprise me.

  • 7. Katie  |  April 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    thanks so much for the answers to my questions. and, yes, I obviously am a bit confused on the differences between gifted and classical. 🙂

  • 8. dazedandconfused  |  April 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    my EXTREMELY limited understanding from GEAP was that gifted essentially was almost 2 grade levels and classical 1 with gifted doing this more project based. I’ll confirm with the husband who has been the intense one of all this.

    as for skinner west… there hasn’t BEEN a skinner west so it’s the wild card 🙂 that’s where we will be going. When we went for the tour the teacher who is at skinner north and will be going to skinner west talked about themes across subjects. she used the ex. of reading willie wonka and then watching the movie and comparing them, some science behind it, then a tour of a chocolate factory. they do differentiate there meaning they will pull kids out who already read and those just starting to read to get everyone at comfortable and challenging levels without having kids bored or struggling. The way I see it the Magnet portion [the neighborhood portion of skinner west] can only be positive – it’s technology and fine arts and as such they get certain funding that necessarily has to help the classical school portion as well.

    as an aside- on my tour of Coonley [who i know the principal from preschool and she is AWESOME] they also talked about a trip to the chocolate factory 🙂

  • 9. dazedandconfused  |  April 28, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    as for busing issues. i wouldn’t feel comfortable sending my 5 yr old on a bus by herself but friends whose children all go to another school have a schedule where parents rotate so there is always one parent on the bus. just a thought.

    i also thought decatur was the #1 school in the state. maybe that’s just the rumor i heard.

    plus anyone still on the fence about skinner west. we’ll be there 🙂

  • 10. Another CPS Mom  |  April 30, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Decatur offers a strong classical education, and it is a wonderful small school (less than 300 students). The classical model appears to be (at least loosely based) on the traditional classical model of education (i.e., liberal arts). See for info on the classical curriculum model (keeping in mind that site is about homeschooling a classical education). It really seems to work.

    Decatur has a lot of homework and requires significant parent involvement. I understand that Edison has even more homework, much of which is ongoing projects (from parents who have kids at both schools concurrently). The accelerated and gifted programs both seem to require more and some children are up to the challenge early on, while others may be more suited to that work beginning in third or fourth grade. (I think that may be one reason some districts don’t have GATE programs until about 3rd grade.)

    Decatur students have consistently scored very high on state tests, and the Sun-Times has consistently ranked Decatur as the number 1 (or among the very top) elementary schools in the state for at least 10 years.

    All that said, no school is perfect. Parents have to find the best fit for their child(ren). Unfortunately, every school is not the best fit for every child even those in the same family.

    As to busing, there are kindergartners at Decatur who ride the bus, although many more ride in 1st or 2nd grade and up. Parents are not allowed to ride on the bus, unless it is a school field trip.

    Good luck to all with your decisions. If you look at it as a one-year decision (you can look elsewhere for 1st if the fit is not what you were hoping), it seems more manageable.

  • 11. Katie  |  April 30, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I had never heard that gifted schools are often 2 years ahead and classical 1 year. interesting. has anyone else heard this?
    yes, i believe decatur is listed as #1 school in state…I think that’s based on test scores. As someone else mentioned, I would hope they’d have high test scores as they start with the 99%+ kids (scores on classical test.) I’m sure the program is great….although still trying to figure out more….but I would guess that kids scoring at that level would score pretty well at any school they attended. 🙂
    I like the idea of parents taking turns accompanying their kids on the bus. Was this to a CPS school?
    Anyone else have info about Decatur? I hope they’ll have an informational meeting for families attending in the fall. Even if I had been on the ball and taken the tour last Oct or Nov, my 5 year old couldn’t have gone on the tour (just for adults i think.)
    Won’t the kids get an introduction to the school?
    cpsobsessed…are you serious, tap dancing? ugh! 🙂

  • 12. PR  |  April 30, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Let me start with -neither of my children were selected for Decatur (son got into Edison). I did do research, since it is within walking distances. Sounds like everyone gave you the good stuff. A couple of things that I didn’t love 1) no recess 2) no gymnasium, only multipurpose room 3) no lunchroom 3) it only goes to 6th grade which means switching to a new school in 7th (which is most important for highschool applications) and then switching again in 9th. The families I know who have children there love it.

  • 13. KS  |  April 30, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Katie – Did you accept the spot at Decatur? After we accepted, we received a packet of information in the mail with a registration date and time (ours is next week). It says your child need not be present for registration, but I imagine that they could come if you wanted.

    Decatur held a very well attended tour at the end of March for parents whose children received an acceptance during the first round. During this tour, the principal mentioned that they usually have a summer orientation camp for new students at the end of August to introduce them to the school. They are planning to do this again, as long as the funding for this program is provided again by CPS.

    Hopefully this helps. I am sure the the principal would be happy to answer all of your questions. I would give her a call.

  • 14. dazedandconfused  |  April 30, 2009 at 11:04 am

    i was the one who mentioned the parents on the bus. it came up because we are outside any busing option for skinner west but the school gave us a list of private companies. I think this is where parents can ride along. CPS provided i have no idea.
    On a tour of a gifted school we were told that it is expected that by 6th grade the students were expected to be working at an 8th grade level.
    good luck everyone. i’m not 100% sure of our decision but honestly am relieved the decision making is over 🙂

  • 15. Dean  |  April 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    My daughter who is now 21 years old went to Decatur and I can give parents some insight into the experiences and outcomes of some Decatur students. First the work load is very intense. My daughter although very bright had and still has a disability.

    The school was very weak on special education. Since Decatur is a small school I was very surprised to learn during my daughter’s time there that at least 5 students including my daughter who were recieving various forms of group counseling by grade 5. The school psychologist was named Rene something as i recall who went to Decatur and she was big on group sessions.

    Many of the kids were tracked to W Young’s 7 and 8 grade program, where the pressure continued. Of the seven Decatur students who my daughter maintained contact with over the years here are their current outcomes.

    One went to City College and dropped out, one goes to the University of Illinois at Chicago, one goes to University of Illinois at Champaign, another goes to DePaul part time and works, two never graduated from high school and one these students I know currently works today at Ben and Jerry’s, and sadly one student who graduated from Lane Tech died in a car crash last year.

    By the way my daughter could read at about grade level 2 when she entered Decatur and only ened up getting a 23 ACT composite score when she was a high school junior at Young. The long and the short is admission to Decatur is not necessarily a ticket to either success or failure.

  • 16. cpsmom  |  May 1, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Skinner West is the original Skinner. It sits just behind Whitney Young HS in the West Loop.
    There was never a skinner north or west until this winter. The intention was to have a new building that is a new state of the art building but because they used tif money which is a whole other story they had to open a portion of it to the neighborhood, hence the kindergarten neighborhood program. the original skinner parents fumed at this. they did not want to share the building with a neighborhood component. they thought it would take away from the skinner name. So many of the existing skinnner families have chosen to send their kids to Skinner North which is not sharing space with any other program.
    If I were you I would do cartwheels and accept at skinner west. It is a gorgeous building! and a darn good school!

    I am in a hurry I hope all of this makes sense.

  • 17. Peggy  |  May 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Okay, here is my 2 cents, though I agree very much to the original post. Both Classical and Gifted are academically advanced….the term “differentialed and articlated” is often used to describe the Gifted Program–and so sometimes people get the idea that the Gifted Program is for the really smart kids. Both programs draw smart kids who learn at a faster pace. Decatur kids start out in kindergarten reading and they move on from there. Kids in the Gifted Program sometimes read early, and sometimes don’t, but they all end up around the same place in 2nd grade. Don’t get hung up on the word “gifted” as kids who make it into these programs are academically advanced–in fact, many of the parents at the Gifted Programs get carried away that their kids are sometimes gifted when in fact they are advanced academically. Both programs can be 1 or 2 grades beyond the actual grade–the Gifted Program loves to promote that where as the Classical School doesn’t boast about that as much. The kids that go to either Clasical or Gifted (I prefer the word Options rather than Gifted) all end up in the best highschools and in general test very well on ISATs and things like that. From my experience, the Classical school is very skill and drill (lots of worksheets) early on and then become very hands on/critical thinking oriented in the later grades. The standardized tests are no biggie to Classical school kids because they are taught a little to the test. The Options program starts out with the critical component from the get go–they are more project based and have less worksheets, and from my experience at our RGC, there is less emphasis on the test. Both are good CPS models and much depends on how your child learns–yes Decatur is known to be strict but it seems to bother the parents more than the kids, who all seem happy. Too bad Decatur does not go to 8th grade. Myself, I prefer the Options Program because I feel the learning is coordinated between grades–the teachers work in unison from 1st to 2nd and so on– the teachers are established in that grade and do not change as freqeuntly as they did at Decatur. In addition, the way the Options Program operates is more real world (group projects, critical thinking, etc) Some kids are fortunate to get into both types of schools even though the tests are vastly different. Beware, once you accept a spot in Options, you can only go to that Options program–and not switch to another Options school. You can switch between Classical and Options though.

  • 18. Rita  |  May 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I do understand the anxiety of not knowing where to send your Kindergarten age child. But, now that my kids are in high school (yes, CPS high school), I know that high school is MUCH more of an issue than elementary school ever should have been. Here’s my advice on any elementry school, including Decatur – if you’re lucky enough to have your child accepted there, sure, send him/her there IF you live nearby that school. It makes no sense to drive your kid across town. Cultivating friendships for your children (which you as an elemenary school parent will do!) is hard when you live miles and miles apart. Instead, find a school that you will be comfortable with close to your home, even if it means within 3/4 miles. There are a LOT of magnet programs that are very noteworthy, where your kids will thrive, and will eventually lead you to a great high school. Leave the stress for later on in your child’s academic “career”.

  • 19. Decatur Mom  |  May 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    There is a welcome picnic coming up and at the end of summer the children come to school (before schools starts) for 2 hours each morning for a week to meet the teachers and get comfortable with the school. I believe this is only for K and 1st grade. You will love Decatur! and the bathroom thing is not true! Decatur only has 1 boy and 1 girl bathroom for the whole school. Located in the middle of the school. Parents can’t come in to use that bathroom. There is another one located in the teachers lounge. A single bathroom. However, this is also the office of several staff members, the area where meetings or student counceling/special ed etc are held. If privacy is needed and the door is closed a parent can’t use that bathroom either. If it is not in use they can. However, Mc Donalds is right around the corner! and how long does it really take to pick up your child. We are a small school, we are lacking space, we do not have a lunch room or a gym. That is the truth! But we have a great PTA and LSC, the staff is wonderful and the kids love the school.

  • 20. Classical mom  |  May 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    The Tribune lists Poe Classical (rank 11) ahead of Decatur (rank 15). Here’s the link :
    The Suntimes ranks Decatur higher because they average the actual scores of the individual students and Decatur’s students score higher than Poe’s students on the tests. The Tribune ranks based on percentage students who meet or exceed ISAT.

    Yes, it is true in gifted programs they teach 2 grades ahead and classical teaches one grade ahead. If you go to the site under enroll in school in the overview section it says how much ahead the schools teaches…it’s curious that Decatur says one to two years ahead and I believe the other classical overviews says 1 year. The gifted overviews say one and a half to two.

  • 21. RGC CPS Mom  |  May 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

    So many people are singing Decatur’s praises, I thought I would post my own observations. While I do not have a child at Decatur, knowing what I know now about the school from other parents who pulled their kids out of Decatur, I would not ever think about sending my second child there. We won’t even apply. Test scores are not everything.

    There are practical reasons (the distance), but there are more serious ones as well, ranging from no recess and no lunchroom to the fact that the kids watch Disney movies during lunch.

    Kids are still kids, even if they are smart or gifted. From what I have heard from parents who pulled their kids out of Decatur to place them in either neighborhood schools or regional gifted centers, the kids are not given any leeway to be kids. And I’m not sending my kid to school to watch movies on a daily basis.

    The homework is very rote. Yes, there are special projects, but also tons of worksheets. I feel my child is being much more nurtured at the regional gifted center she’s at much closer to my house and that she would even get a good education at my neighborhood school, if that were our only other option.

    The practicality of getting to and from school every day is also an important factor in making the school a good fit for the family, especially for a school you don’t absolutely love. Every kid learns differently too and just because your kid gets into Decatur, does not mean that he or she will fit in well there.

    So don’t feel badly about giving up a coveted Decatur spot. Audubon and Coonley are fine choices. (as are many others.)

  • 22. decaturson  |  May 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    My son is at Decatur 1st grade. At our report card meeting early this year 2009 (Jan or Feb?), I was told he was expected to write and do math at 3rd grade level. Late last year from Sept to Dec 2009, I assume that the kids were expected to do math and reading at 2nd grade level. I think this is the reason for Decatur saying that they teach 1-2 grades above the level. Whatever the case, the math and language art workbooks that they use are at 2nd grade level.

    I think the decision to put your child into any accelerated program is dependent on the child. If your child will be bored in a regular neighborhood program, then the accelerated programs (gifted or classical) may be the way to go. And if not accepted to those programs based on score, it doesn’t necessarily mean your child is “not good enough.” Acceptance to those schools is not only based on test scores. Unfortunately, other factors go into play that parents cannot control.

  • 23. EJ  |  May 6, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    I think giving opinions/observations based on what they heard “from parents who actually pulled their kids out of Decatur” is not wise since that person actually doesn’t have any kid who goes there. I’m sure some parents were hoping Kathie did not accept the classical school offer. Disney movies at lunch, come on…

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  May 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    EJ – I did ponder whether or not to post that comment. I do think that comments from people who pulled a child from a school are valid, otherwise you get a lot of “we love it!”. However I think I know of at least one family who has left just about every “top” CPS school in the city. Not every school is a perfect fit for every family. But I do think it’s worth considering the opinions.
    I also determined that the parents reading here are smart enough to use their judgment when weighing the opinions.
    The daily movie viewing sounds hard to believe, I agree. I was going to try to confirm it with the school but I didn’t feel it was worth the time to call. If they do movies occasionally, so be it – they seem to be excelling at academics and from the sound of the rigor, a little movie-viewing might be a nice break.

  • 25. RGC CPS Mom  |  May 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I assure you that my comments were truthful and not part of some grand conspiracy to open up a slot at Decatur.

    Not every school, even a top school, is a good fit for every family. And my conversations with parents whose children are either no longer at Decatur or are unhappy with Decatur are just as valid as parents who sing its praises.

    You may think movies are welcome break for the kids, but not every parent will agree. Ask the parents whose kids are in Decatur who have posted here, I’m sure they will not deny it.

    This isn’t speculation on my part, it’s feedback I have received from actual parents with real children who were at Decatur (or in one case is still at Decatur) and are unhappy with the school.

    One of the previous posters was concerned about turning it down because it was “the best” in terms of test scores. Test scores are not everything, seriously. My comments are not just “sour grapes.”

  • 26. cpsobsessed  |  May 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    RGC CPS Mom – thanks for responding. I didn’t mean to imply that your comments were sour grapes. It is just SO hard to believe that a school like Decatur would show movies every day! It doesn’t fit with the rest of the academic rigor thing. Unless they’re educational movies. I think parents appreciate hearing both the positive and negative aspects of a school (and most schools have both.) Or, what one views as positive, another could be less-than thrilled with.

  • 27. Katie  |  May 7, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Thank you everyone for all your comments. I do even appreciate hearing the negatives. I actually wish there would have been some more constructive negatives to read. 🙂 It is interesting that a PP commented that the students weren’t allowed to be kids, but then had a problem with them watching part of a kid movie at lunch. Not sure that I think that’s a great option every day, but I wouldn’t define it as a ‘serious’ problem. Given the short school days that exist with CPS, I don’t find it that surprising that the kids don’t get a recess. Our neighborhood CPS school, which I love, allows only about 10 minutes recess for the K class…sometimes a bit longer if the weather is nice.
    I think what I said about the test scores being ‘the best’ was that it makes no difference to me. The test scores (IMO) really tell me very little about the school since they’re taking some of the kids with top scores to begin with. I was not concerned about turning it down because it has the top test scores. My concern is for my son…for his happiness, for a well-rounded education, for a positive school experience in a challenging environment because that’s what he needs.
    We’re excited to give Decatur a try.
    When I went to the school today to register, I got a really good vibe. Bright and clean facilities, helpful and friendly administratrive staff. Met three very friendly parents of K students that I look forward to getting to know. I hope that the kids will have a chance for an orientation. They said it depends on whether or not they get the funding.
    My son played in the playground for a few minutes after registration and we saw a group of young students outside…maybe doing a botany lesson as they were looking at the flowers. From my brief observation, they seemed happy to be there. 🙂
    The drive, which I’ve done a few times, isn’t as awful as I thought it might be. 15 minutes in no traffic…obviously it will take longer at 8:00 in the morning…but it’s not terrible.
    I look forward to hearing more about the school, both positive and negative. 🙂 …and hopefully becoming involved in the school to help find some solutions to the negatives. I completely understand that no school is perfect and time will tell if it’s a good fit for my son.
    thanks again for all the comments….and tell me more! 🙂

  • 28. KS  |  May 8, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Hi again…..I just wanted to post regarding the comment that Decatur doesn’t offer any recess. While this might have been true in the years past. this is no longer the case. From what I understand, they now have recess for the children everyday, weather permitting. In fact, the school was featured in a Medill News article this winter about the importance of physical activity in the learning process (see link below). This was a very important factor for us in our decision process.

    And as always, thanks so much for all of the comments. This site has been invaluable to me during this process. Cheers!

  • 29. Beth Ann  |  May 21, 2009 at 11:35 am

    My son was a student at Decatur until last year. I wanted to address both the recess issue and the movie issue. Two winters ago, I recall hearing from either the Principal or the AP that the kids would go out for recess unless it was below freezing. The students do have to eat in their classrooms, but hot lunches are available, as well as hot breakfasts. The students have recess every day right after lunch and if it is too cold to go outside, they do watch movies, or play chess or board games, or talk quietly with their friends. They can read or do art or anything else that doesn’t disturb the other kids. The movies are on if they choose to watch them. I even remember my son taking DVDs to school so that teachers could offer a variety of appropriate material. The teachers are very careful about the content of the films they show, so there’s nothing over the PG realm. Granted, I don’t love the idea of my son watching movies at school, but if they are stuck inside because of the weather, give them some choices about what to do with their limited downtime.
    Our experience at Decatur was life-changing. A couple of the best teachers in the world teach there (in my opinion). We miss it every day.

  • 30. SR  |  April 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Katie- If you are still reading this blog, I would love to hear about your first year experience at Decatur. Our child was accepted for 1st grade. He loves sports and playdates. We want to make sure he has a great CPS education, but can continue to be well-rounded. We are also concerned about the distance. The bottom line is we want what’s best for our child. Thanks.

  • 31. l  |  May 11, 2010 at 12:43 am

    My child will be attending Decatur this fall. I am conflicted about the school. I went to the open house and observed the students during the walk-through. The upper level class students appeared happy but in the Kindergarten class I did not see any happy looking 5 or 6 year olds. They may have been uncomfortable with a group of strangers staring at them or concentrating on their work but unhappy looking children concern me. Another thing that concerns me is that during registration the person who registered my child pleasantly said “you have to have money to go to Decatur.” I hope this statement is not a reflection of Decatur’s culture. My child will be attending Decatur for it’s academic reputation whether or not he will stay will depend on his happiness. Decatur is a public school and having money or not should be a non-issue. I believe my children will succeed in any school and most importantly in life as long as I remain a loving and involved parent. To all those CPS-obsessed, remember we the parents are our children’s first and most important teachers.

  • 32. Jill Martensen  |  January 24, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I need to know the name (or description of the person if you don’t know it) who registered you. I am the Decatur LSC Chair and you DO NOT have to have money to go there. If it was the elderly lady in the office, she is a 90 year old volunteer and “not all there” anymore I’ll forgive the faux pas.. If it was anyone else, I will have their head on a platter! (kidding of course)

    As for all the other comments here, everyone has to make their own decisions about what is best for their child, so I will not try to convince you that Decatur is the best there is. You have to find the best for your child- regardless of test scores or reputation.

    I will however say, personally the biggest mistake I ever made was moving my son from Decatur to Edison. I finally got him out of there and back with his Decatur peers at the Whitney Young Academic Center and he is thriving again! I’m not saying that Edison isn’t a great school, because it is, but I listened to the “grass is always greener” folks and it wasn’t greener for my boy! So be careful to ONLY consider your child’s needs….

  • 33. cps mom  |  January 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I know who the 90 year old women is in the office. she was my school teacher at lincoln back in the 70’s . I have dreadful memories of that time period in school. So does everyone in my family that had her as a home room teacher back then.
    Your first impressions were right and unfortunately teachers like her are still around ( even in a volunteer position). I cringe at the thought!

  • 34. Another Rogers Park Mom!!!  |  March 22, 2011 at 1:58 am

    19. Decatur Mom | May 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm
    There is a welcome picnic coming up and at the end of summer the children come to school (before schools starts) for 2 hours each morning for a week to meet the teachers and get comfortable with the school.>>

    Um, yah. NOT true. Your kid goes the WHOLE day, the first day, and every other day of the first week for the WHOLE day. Period. NO transition time. Not sure where that ‘Decatur Mom’ got her info, but yeah… I’ve been a Decatur mom for nearly 4yrs, and that has NEVER happened at Decatur Classical on Sacremento! Nope! Just a truthful FYI!

  • 35. Another Rogers Park Mom!!!  |  March 22, 2011 at 2:13 am

    @CPS Obsessed: FYI, I am a CURRENT Decatur mom, and while I have not heard of ‘Disney’ per say, there is a lot of Magic School Bus watching at Lunch! Lol, it’s Science, right? There is also a LOT of game-playing, or outdoor play weather permitting during lunch. I believe the Magic School Bus thing is more for a) Rainy or Cold mornings for the children being accomodated for Early Drop Off, and b) Rainy or Cold lunch times when kids are tired, restless, have been testing and need a ‘break’, or in fact… the teacher has to take a meeting and the kids are being watched by another staff member (ie: parental-pickle-braining’, lol!) Is it excessive? Um, no! Does it EVER happen? Truthfully, yes. Do I mind Magic School Bus? Oh please! It’s SCIENCE! 😉

  • 36. Duke80  |  April 18, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    We have been accepted to Decatur for one of the upper grades and I am wondering if anyone has transitioned to this school from another non-CPS school. We are at a good, private school now but my child is frequently bored and likely needs an accelerated learning environment. I know this should be about my child so I am willing to switch. With the new CPS admissions system, I don’t know if I would get a RGC offer so don’t even know what to compare this to or what to do?? I really do like our school too. Could someone whose child attends Decatur(preferably with a child in 3-5 grades) please help??!!

    1. Do the kids in say 3-6 grades have more of a “critical thinking” focused eduation already or is it still mostly fact-based learning and worksheets?
    2. How much homework would you say the kids get per night? How long does it take?
    3. Is there really no recess? Is that typical of some CPS schools (we’ve never attended).
    4. What do most kids do for 7-8 grade? Or does everyone kind of go their separate ways?

    Thanks so much for any help provided. I have to tell myself not to overthink this, it is just a year, but we are in a good place for the most part. My kid is bored though but I don’t like the thought of memorizing fact after fact. I think learning is fun for my kids and that is why they are doing well so far.

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