A Seattle family's decision to go from private to public school

Families are just several days or a few weeks away from going back to school, and most of them will be doing it from home.

With so many changes in education that are coming in, some families are also having a change in heart when it comes to their child’s education.

Molly Mitchell’s 9-year-old daughter Olivia is going back to public school this fall.

She was most recently a student at Hamlin Robinson in Seattle’s Central District, a private school for students with dyslexia and reading disabilities.

Mitchell and her husband made this decision for the 2019-2020 school year when Olivia started falling behind in school.

“There’s a lot of privilege in being able to decide: Do I want to make the public school take my kid, or have the choice of a private school,” said Mitchell, who has a background in education.

Mitchell is the director of Student Support Services at Seattle Central College, and ran for a seat on the Seattle School Board.

“Many of us will be fine. We should really focus on those young people who are living in trauma, or who have gone missing in education or who we’ve been failing for so long,” said Mitchell. “I wish that it was more equitable right, and so that we had more structured, tailored services that each individual student needs to learn best.”

Like many households, distance learning started back in March for Olivia, and will continue on for the foreseeable future into the upcoming school year.

All of this time spent together at home gave Mitchell a chance to have honest conversations with her daughter, who she noticed made the biggest strides in learning during the summer.

“She has taught herself to read. She watches science video. She watches history on PBS. She gives me all these tutorials on thing she’s been learning,” said Mitchell. “So I asked her, ‘why is that you’ve made so many strides over the summer when you’re not even in school?’”

She learned her daughter was feeling pressure to excel academically in school. “We thought we were doing the right thing by sending her to private school, but now we’re realizing from her feedback that we were piling on the pressure,” said Mitchell.

While Mitchell would never fault any parent for choosing private or public, she does know based on her conversations with her daughter and her desire for equitable learning have brought their family to a decision that is right for them.

“I would never have this time at home with my kiddo and I just have one. We just enjoy every day that we can together, whether it’s learning or laughing or being silly,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell will be attending Fairmount Elementary School in the Seattle Public School District.

What is your family’s story this back-to-school season? Send Jennifer Lee an email about it. She’d love to hear from you.