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Have plan B ready, in case you lose the lottery

So you've got hopes of getting your child into a particular school, although there is that nagging possibility the lottery may not be kind.

Do you have a backup plan?

David and Lois McKee did. And plan B has now become plan A. Actually, it was the district's suggestion that the McKee children go to Tyrone Elementary School, a little more than two miles away from their home.

But still, the McKees did their homework and are an example: Just because you decide on a zoned school doesn't mean you have to put away the magnifying glass.

Five years ago, the couple contemplated putting their oldest daughter _ Jenelle, now 10 years old _ in private school. They actually applied for a fundamental school but were not offered a spot.

So they changed the focus of their search to Tyrone Elementary. They made an appointment with the principal and met some of the teachers.

"Coming out of the meeting, we had a very favorable impression of Tyrone," said David McKee, 41.

Now, all the McKee children _ Jenelle, Stephanie, 9; Coree, 8; and Christian, 7 _ ride a bus to Tyrone, which offers a gifted program.

During their visit, the McKees asked about discipline and student expectations. They also made clear what they expected from the teachers and the school.

"The education is only as good as the teacher," said Lois McKee, 33. Their request was a teacher who was a strict disciplinarian yet loving and nurturing.

But they also looked beyond the classroom.

David McKee checked out the P.E. fields to make sure the kids would have enough space to develop athletically.

The McKees are sure they made a good choice, noting especially the friendships their children have developed with some of the disabled students at the school.

"You can't put a price tag on those types of experiences," said Lois McKee.

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