Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Parents endure wait to sign up


City public schools: Montessoris preferred

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tamara Johnson and her husband, Calvin Taylor, of Roselawn, played the waiting game in shifts.

Beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday until early Monday, either Johnson or Taylor waited in line and camped out in the cold - along with about 30 other parents - next to North Avondale Montessori.

Johnson and Taylor were trying to get their 5-year-old daughter, Amara, enrolled - or at least on the school's waiting list. When principal Whitney Simmons opened the doors at 5 a.m. - two hours earlier than usual - the couple had third place in the lineup.

But since North Avondale has only kindergarten slots available for next year, Amara was put on a waiting list.

The wait in the cold drizzle was still worth it, said Johnson, a teacher at Woodward High School, if Amara can continue what she's getting at Kennedy Heights Montessori preschool.

"My child is getting a good foundation," Johnson said.

Parent waiting lines were supposed to be a thing of the past for Cincinnati Public Schools.

Ever since 2000, when CPS did away with its "Super Saturday" system of enrolling magnet schools at locations kept secret until sign-up day, there has been little need to race to sign-up sites. Parents are supposed to be able to leisurely sign up at the school of their choice.

But for a few schools, mainly Montessori grade schools, there are more eager parents than slots available. Staffs at North Avondale, Sands and Dater Montessoris reported lines outside their doors Monday morning.

The Montessori elementaries had few enrollment slots open because they must give priority to the siblings of current students. The schools enrolled only a few kindergartners Monday.

Montessori classes are multi-aged groups, where children work independently at their own pace.

North Avondale's lengthy waiting list includes many of the 200 kids on the list from last year, said principal Simmons. The school, which has about 525 students, isn't scheduled to be expanded until 2007 or later.

Alton Frailey, CPS superintendent, said the lines show that "we have to have more high-quality choices," for parents.

Throughout Monday, most other magnet schools reported a "slow and steady" stream of parents coming in, said Chris Wolff, a CPS spokeswoman.

Not enough students have signed up for Cincinnati's public high schools, said Janet Walsh, a CPS spokeswoman.

School enrollment

General enrollment for schools began Monday and continues until June 30.

On Thursday, CPS will give parents a chance to talk with officials at all its magnet schools and at its high schools. Parents will be able to enroll students in schools at the Cincinnati Public Schools of Choice Fair at Xavier University's Cintas Center, 1624 Herald Ave., Evanston, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The choices:

•  22 magnet elementary schools.

•  25 high-school programs with special focuses.

Enrollment forms and additional information are available on the CPS web site: www.cps-k12.org

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E-mail damos@enquirer.com




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