I commend Hamodia for printing “It Won’t Happen to Me.” I would like to suggest a solution for the mesivta (and high school) problem.
People who live in cities where there are schools that have grades 1–12 under one administration have no problem of where to place their eighth-graders; the students just continue in the same school. Therefore, the best way to avoid the eighth-to-ninth-grade transition is to avoid it completely. Seek out a school that has such continuity.
I will use a school in Monsey as an example. My granddaughter just finished ninth grade there. For the first eight grades there were three parallel classes. And when it came time to go to high school, every single girl went from eighth grade to ninth grade (except one girl who moved to Lakewood). Children (and parents) do not have to fend for themselves or seek “connections” trying to find a high school. As a matter of fact, this school has four parallel classes in high school to accommodate girls coming in from other elementary schools to their high school.
It is also important that parents actually stick with the same school, even if they get offers from other mesivtaos or high schools that may have scouted out their child. Just like you appreciate that your child has where to go even if he/she is not the absolute best in his/her class, it is important that you also stick with this school with a child who was blessed to be a top performer in elementary school. I know of one boys’ school in Monsey that insists that parents sign that they will keep their child [in their school] through high school. It works on the same principle — we are here for you in the earlier grades, you have to be here for us in the older grades.
If you live in a community where almost all the schools have independent elementary schools and independent high schools, then speak to the administration [of your elementary school] and encourage them to expand into ninth grade next year; in four short years the problem will be completely solved for that school. Make a firm commitment that if they expand, you will stick with the school. Speak to other parents of the school. If enough parents make the commitment, the school will likely expand into a high school division. The elementary schools will also benefit, since, currently, the schools also go through a lot of effort and frustration trying to get their students accepted into the various high schools and mesivtaos. By having their own high school, there will be no pressure on the administration to get the students into other schools, since it will be in their interest to keep the students in their own high school.
Shimon Lichtenstein, Brooklyn, NY