Updated: Oct. 2, 2011 -- The week before school started, Isaiah Wyatt headed to the West Roxbury Library for a meet-and-greet with other students, all wearing their bright yellow “I’m Going to Kindergarten!” T-shirts.
The students gathered for pizza and storytelling, yoga and crafts, and to meet their classmates, who were assigned to different Boston Public Schools in West Roxbury. The more his mother learned about Isaiah’s school, the Beethoven, the more impressed she was.
The school was the family’s third choice, based on its proximity and reputation; they had aimed for the extremely competitive Lyndon or Kilmer schools -- also in West Roxbury -- and had never visited the Beethoven before Isaiah was assigned there. But by the time assignments came out in March, they were pleased.
“I guess I just didn’t really realize how desired the Beethoven was,” said Becky Wyatt.
On Sept. 12, Isaiah landed there, his Transformers lunchbox in hand, with no apparent qualms. When his parents stayed for an assembly to meet the teachers, Isaiah was already asserting his independence.
“Mom and Daddy, are you going to say goodbye?” he asked, as Becky Wyatt recounted. “Well, then, say it!”
Updated: March 28, 2011 -- Becky Wyatt was only half joking when she said she feared the letter from the School Department could put her into labor. Nearly nine months pregnant with her third child, she'd been agonizing for months about where her son, Isaiah, would be assigned to kindergarten.
She had tried to stop worrying by last Saturday, when she rushed back from a religious retreat to retrieve the school-assignment letter from her mailbox. But as she read the printout, she found herself pleasantly surprised. Isaiah didn't get into her first-choice school, but he got into his third pick, the Beethoven, a highly regarded school in West Roxbury.
"Wow. Isaiah. We've been praying about this for a long time," she said, smiling with relief. "All right. I can breathe."
If Isaiah didn't get into one of their chosen schools, the Wyatts would have left the city; their lease is up June 1, and they were facing the unwelcome prospect of apartment hunting and moving with a newborn.
"I just can't tell you how happy I am that we don't have to move," she said. "We just have so much on our plates."
March 13, 2011 -- Josh and Becky Wyatt came to West Roxbury for the community. He wanted to form a Bible-based Evangelical church in a Boston neighborhood with lots of families, where people put down roots.
Last June, they moved from Hubbardston to West Roxbury having no idea that their children might not go to school in the neighborhood.
"I was just so unaware of how it worked around here," said Becky Wyatt, 27, who grew up in South Hadley. After a friend warned her to start doing her research, she now has a folder filled with research comparing public schools in her neighborhood. "A year in advance, you’re thinking about Kindergarten whereas I just assumed probably April we’d go and register."
For her 4 1/2-year-old son, Isaiah, she chose six schools and is in love with two -- the Lyndon and Kilmer -- where he has higher priority because he lives close enough to walk. But those are two of the most sought-after schools in the district. And the more she hears from other mothers, the less hope she feels.
"I just feel like everyone who lives in West Roxbury has those as their preference," she said. "I’m preparing myself to not get into any."
That's disheartening for the Wyatts, who have been making friends in the neighborhood and trying to better the community through church service projects, such as a recent family movie night at a Roslindale housing project and a cleanup outside West Roxbury Education Complex, where their church holds services.
"Obviously, our desire is to send our kids to school in the community that we located ourselves in," said Josh Wyatt, 28, who grew up in Georgia. " It's tough to think you can live on a street with all these kids and they get on buses and go their separate ways. It doesn't seem that it helps the community aspect that we're trying to build as a church."
His Charles River Church will remain in West Roxbury. But the Wyatts will probably move if Isaiah gets shut out of his schools this month.
Their lease is up June 1.
Of course, there are a few other things on their mind .They're expecting their third baby April 1. And Isaiah could get on a wait list for one of his schools, leaving them in limbo into the summer. "I’ll be honest, I’ve had a couple very teary nights over it," said Becky Wyatt. "I was just feeling so helpless. It’s so out of your hands."