10 February 2008

Report from the Magnet School Lines

A good friend of ours showed up at Fairview at 4:30 Friday to start waiting in line to register his child for Kindergarten. He was #27 in line, and as of Sunday at noon, there were over 50 parents in line! The parents have built campfires and are playing cornhole. The school staff opened up the gym last night as the temperature dropped. However with 50 in line, I think you could still get in under the cut-off if you showed up today (Sunday morning) and stood in line.

In past years the lines did not form more than 24hours early, and I think some of the panic here was drummed up by the Enquirer and this guy. This whole situation begs two questions: 1. Why they didn't build the new Fairview building bigger?
2. why do they only have one preschool class? Don't the administrators know that these programs are in high demand?


Anonymous said...

You ask good questions. Here is some information that provides at least partial answers.

Class size: The total count of student "seats" in the district is ruled by the enrollment projections prepared for the Ohio State Facilities Commission that funds the building program. Enrollment in CPS has been dropping but is levelling off now. However, the projections don't account for levelling off or even increasing. They take the downward trend and keep projecting it down. So the state will only contribute their percentage to build so many "seats" in the district and no more.

The district could divvy up the seats differently. Increase the size of the magnets by decreasing the size or number of neighborhood schools. That is a double-edged sword, though. Decrease the size and a school no longer has funds for "extras" like gym, music or art teacher, library, etc. Decrease the number of neighborhood schools increases the distance for parents to reach their childrens' school and decreases the likelihood that they can/will be involved. Particularly for lower-income parents who may depend on public transportation. Look at the incredible fight over the closing of Clifton and relocation of Fairview to the Clifton site. Students at the former Clifton have been sent to two or three other "neighborhood" schools that aren't in the neighborhood.

Being so far along in the facilities plan makes it difficult to adjust school enrollments. In the earlier stages they had a "build it and they will come" approach (as I mentioned earlier in Pleasant Ridge they overbuilt the enrollment at that time by 200 seats). They're planning for the fourth and last stage now; this includes popular schools like Walnut Hills and North Avondale.

At one point Blackwell floated a plan to cut seats at Walnut and North Avondale but that was just a red herring to get people to back her plan to build larger than the OFSC projected. It worked to a degree.

Preschool: I think they've figured out the retention rate from preschool to kindergarten and realized that another preschool class would "contribute" more elementary kids than could be absorbed at the size the school will be.

Not good answers, but at least a partial explanation. Not sure what a good solution looks like other than everyone gets something close to what they want. How to get there is the big question. But we still have to keep working towards that.

missi said...

You have a valid point. Our children are at North Avondale and we had the wait as well. I do think that the panic was created rather than being a reality.
There are a few reasons why (and yes I to do the wait to get my kids in) I am okay with the current system. The biggest is that I know that the parents who are enrolling WANT to be there. If we go to a lottery system, well, all bets are off.
NAM' building is actually bigger than our current building and we are beginning to increase our classes- we added an additional preschool and we'll have to add other classes in the future to ensure we can support them.
Last night when I was helping out I kept thinking how much worse would this be if there were only 1 Montessori building in the district. It is a frustrating situation. For the parents who can and want to truly be a part of their child's education, the pickings are slim. You'd think by now the district would pick up on that and do something to fix it.

CityKin said...

I don't know if the pickings for good CPS schools really is that slim. I feel comfortable with all of our options which are: North Avondale, Fairview, SCPA, Sands. Our local school is Rothenberg. Since it is listed as Academic Emergency, we could even get a voucher to attend a local private school. I know one family that is doing that, and they are attending Annunciation, which is just down the street from the new Fairview.

Anonymous #1, thanks for the post. I am a relative newcomer to CPS and I don't always know the history of some of these decisions.

Anonymous said...

What is cornhole, a card game?

Anonymous said...

^I'm glad that my long memory is helpful. It also makes for sleepless nights occasionally :)

I wanted to add that I really enjoy your blog. It's refreshing and an interesting perspective. There are a number of blogs from childless singles/couples about the benefits of living in the city. And they are interesting also. But you have a unique perspective, being in the city with kids. I appreciate your willingness to bring your kids up in the city and share your experiences. Thanks.

CityKin said...

I figure, blog what you know about, right? In my case that is being a dad and living in the city.