Like the other parents streaming in and out of the North Zone Family Resource Center on the snowy winter afternoon, Peoples had come to give her two children Jazmyn Thomas, 3, and J'ovanni Thomas, 4 -- an early shot at a public education through the lottery process for kindergartners.
But she has little say about where they go. Peoples, a 26-year-old single mother, is trying to get back on her feet after a stint in a homeless shelter a few years ago. The shelter's advocates had helped her get a job and obtain day-care vouchers for the children that included free transportation.
Jazmyn and J'ovanni were not learning in the day care, and in February, Peoples enrolled them in preschool at Berea Seventh-Day Adventist Academy in Mattapan to acclimate them with schooling. But she can't afford to keep them there.
She wants them in a public school with all-day service, a strong academic program, and transportation --all free benefits for a struggling, working mother. But finding all her requirements in one school has been challenging, she said.
"It was hard at first because you want what's best for your children,'' Peoples said as her children romped around. "When you go into a situation where you have these schools to look at but you are not finding what you are looking for, it kind of brings you down a little bit."
A lifelong Boston resident, Peoples works as a community relations representative at Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership. She wants to stay in the city, but she is prepared to leave the school system if she has to. She registered the children for METCO -- a voluntary desegregation program that sends Boston students to the suburbs -- and applied to charter schools. And if the children do not get into a school of her choice this year, she said she is planning to move to Quincy or Milton.
But now, she waits for word. She may keep Jazmyn in Berea Academy if she doesn't get either of her two K-0 choices, but she's willing to go down her list of about a dozen possible choices for J'ovanni.
"I'm willing to give the other schools a try,'' she said. "A lot of people don't want their kids in Boston public schools. I don't want to say that the Boston public schools are not good. But I also don't want to take the chance of my children being in that position of not getting the education that they deserve."MEGHAN E. IRONS