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All kindergarteners may get desired schools

District 65 staffers told the school board Tuesday night that, based on results of last week’s registration process, it may be possible to accommodate all kindergarten students this fall at their first-choice schools.

District 65 staffers told the school board Tuesday night that, based on results of last week’s registration process, it may be possible to accommodate all kindergarten students this fall at their first-choice schools.

The district’s chief information officer, Paul Brinson, said 81 percent of the projected total of new kindergarten students were registered last week, compared to about 65 percent at the same stage in prior years.

And of those from attendance-area schools that were expected to be most crowded, enough parents signed up for magnet school or other special programs so that the enrollment staff believes it can handle the the enrollment crunch without bumping kids from the programs they requested.

"At this stage of the game, unless something highly unusual happens," Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, "we should be able to manage enrollment within the class size guidelines without exercising the student assignment guidelines."

But Murphy still urged the board to accept his proposal to suspend the student assignment guidelines for this year to provide extra flexibility in handling late registrations over the summer.

The board voted 5-2 to approve Murphy’s request.

Some board members indicated they were worried that more parents may have signed up for special programs this year simply to give themselves an extra choice beyond having their child transferred to another attendance-area school if their neighborhood school was overcrowded.

Parents requesting the special programs now can normally turn down that reassignment later in the spring once school officials determine how many slots actually will be available in the special programs.

Several board members offered apologies to parents for the five hour wait to complete registrations encountered by some parents who showed up on the first registration day last Tuesday.

"It was confusing and stressful, and I want to apologize for how long people had to wait," said board member Jerome Summers.

But board member Kim Weaver noted that despite the confusion and delays, the bigger registration turnout will now make it much easier for school officials to plan student assignments. She suggested that officials consider using an internet-based registration system in the future.

Member Katie Bailey said the board’s last-minute decision to change the registration rules was unfortunate, but she praised both the registration staff and parents for remaining patient through the process.

The board voted to reserve 20 percent of the kindergarten seats at Willard School for students from the so-called "Willard island" area that’s not contiguous with the rest of the school’s attendance area.

Murphy said many parents from that low-income area tend to wait until August to register their children. The board discussed, but did not decide to extend the late-registration set-aside concept to other district schools.

If the school system ends up having to reassign some students, parents likely won’t be informed of the changes until May.

Based on enrollment projections made before the registration process, school officials had voiced fears of over-enrollment at Dewey, Lincolnwood and Willard elementary schools.

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