Melissa Pickens, Sartell
When my family decided to move, we chose Sartell because of the school system. Having four children (two older and two preschool age at the time), we knew education was an important factor in our decision about where to buy a house. Newspaper articles boasted about the high test scores of Sartell students. Their reputation among the people in the surrounding districts was infallible. Sartell was the “place to be” for the best educational experience.
Well, we have officially come to the end of our first year of school in Sartell. I am less than impressed. In fact, I am enraged. I am enraged, broke and I don’t know a single person in the district (not for lack of effort). Let me explain. My husband and I make an average income of about $55,000 a year. It’s not a lot, but we get by. We have a junior in high school, who chose for many reasons to attend another school in a different district and is sublimely happy with his choice. We have a kindergartener and a pre-preschooler, both in Sartell.
First, the cost (I will include only our kindergartener, since he is technically the only one in the Sartell school system). My husband and I both work full time so we have to pay for before- and after-school care. Full-day kindergarten, giving him the best educational “kick-start,” in our opinion, in Sartell costs money. In Sartell there is a sliding fee scale for that, based on one’s income. We do not qualify for free- or reduced-cost lunch, and our son can eat. School supplies are not provided at school, and they ask you provide extra and provide them throughout the school year. Activities are not covered, and donations are requested regularly.
Total cost for kindergarten:
Before and after-school care ($10 a day on school days, $20 when school is closed) – $440
School tuition ($200 per month) – $1,800
School lunch (roughly $90 per month) – $810
Activities fees, school supplies, etc. – $200
Total – $3,250
Second, I don’t know a soul! I work full time (I have to with the cost of four kids), but I still manage to attend every single event at his school and volunteer in his classroom once per week and at events and/or PTO activities when I can (they are usually during the day). I’m not a judgmental person; I’m usually very outgoing and nice. But nobody spoke to me. Nobody invited me into their “clique.” How can we expect our children to grow up to be accepting and non-judgmental individuals when we as parents are the worst of them all, cliquey rich and snobby.
And finally, it’s time for the baby of the family to attend preschool next year. I brought him in for his preschool screening, and I was not surprised to discover he will need speech therapy. That was March 2013. A month later, they called me back to schedule a screening, but she couldn’t fit me in until May. Although once my appointment rolled around, she called and said she couldn’t do it until the fall because the district said they need 30 days in order to do an assessment. Well, here’s why it matters to me. After spending two months trying to get in touch with the preschool coordinator for Sartell (apparently she also works for another district), my son got the last spot. She informs me Sartell does not provide busing or any sort of transportation UNLESS the child has special needs AND the family can prove hardship. Well, my husband and I work full time (as I mentioned). So we have no way to get him to preschool. So since the speech pathologist and district so eloquently put us off until the end of the year, we have no way to transport him to preschool unless I quit my job. But then I can’t afford it. Because of course it costs money, on top of daycare. Here’s how much…
Daycare (full-time per week – $140); preschool (two days a week for two hours per week cost $130)
Total per week cost – $270
Icing on the cake: I received a letter from the district saying since we moved in the middle of the school year, my son (the kindergartener), who has made friends at PME and finished his first year at a new school (and a teacher he loves – the only good thing about the school – great teachers), has to now switch to Oak Ridge Elmentary because of a “capacity issue.”
So, parents beware. When choosing a place to move to, and reading those enticing newspaper articles about the flashy and fantastic Sartell, it’s not so fantastic. They will nickel-and-dime you and knock you around until you say “uncle.” Not to mention they are just downright mean here.