This is one of those stories where it’s hard to attribute blame, and yet it seems too silly for words.
And at the centre of it is a four-year-old girl who wants no more than to go to the same school as her two big sisters.
That’s the emotional situation East Maitland mother of three Ashleigh Gibson finds herself in as she tries to get her youngest daughter Charlotte enrolled at East Maitland Primary School.
The family live in Narang Street, East Maitland which happens to form the border of the school’s enrolment zone. Technically, the Gibson home is a couple of doors outside the zone.
But here’s the rub: the school zoning hasn’t changed in 20 years, and while Charlotte has been refused, her sisters Madison and Isabella were both accepted.
It’s little wonder mum Ashleigh is frustrated.
After all, she is the one who has to deal with the tears at night from Madison and Isabella who are upset at the prospect they may have to leave their school friends behind and move to a new school at Tenambit.
The alternative is for Ashleigh to juggle the demands of having daughters at different schools – as if being mum to three young children isn’t hard enough.
At the same time the Department of Education has rules to follow.
Charlotte can’t be enrolled because the school is full, but if a position comes up then the school could consider out-of-zone enrolments.
Not only that, but it was not uncommon for the Department to prioritise out-of-zone students who had a sibling already enrolled at a school. But even then, students in the school zone came first.
The sticking point here, of course, is that for Ashleigh Gibson, there can be no guarantees.
“I don’t know whether to split them up,” Ms Gibson said. “It absolutely rips my heart out.”
What makes it worse is that she has no issues with East Maitland Primary School. The opposite in fact.
One of the reasons she wants Charlotte to join her big sisters is because she likes the school.
We’re not thinking for a minute that the Gibson family is the only one to have experienced this situation. Indeed, the Mercury have done stories like this in the past.
Let’s hope it’s one of those stories that turns out right in the end.