Hundreds of parents waited several hours Tuesday at the District 65 administration building trying to get their children registered for kindergarten.

The last-minute announcement by school officials that they plan to cap kindergarten enrollment at some neighborhood schools this fall set off a scramble for parents to make sure their kids weren’t shut out.

Hundreds of parents waited several hours Tuesday at the District 65 administration building trying to get their children registered for kindergarten.

The last-minute announcement by school officials that they plan to cap kindergarten enrollment at some neighborhood schools this fall set off a scramble for parents to make sure their kids weren’t shut out.

The district’s communications director, Pat Markham, says hundreds of people had arrived at the building at 1500 McDaniel Ave. when she arrived before the 7 a.m. start of the registration period.

Markham says the district staff can only process about 45 registrations per hour, but managed to complete well over 300 during the course of the eight-hour registration period.

Registration continues today and tomorrow from noon until 7 p.m.

In an e-mail message to Evanston Now, Angela Allyn writes, “District 65 was clearly unprepared, and if you want to discriminate against working families, that’s a good way to do it.”

Another parent said people in line worked out exchanges among themselves to get through the long day. On a school message board that woman wrote that one person went home to walk her dogs and then brought back lunch for friends waiting in line, while another left to pick up a friend’s child at pre-school and take him home.

“Something has to change with our district,” she said, “the process is so antiquated. Not everybody can afford to miss an entire day off work.”

Markham says the district recently has implemented mail-in registration for families with children returning to the schools, but, for families who are new to the district, officials have to personally check forms used to prove the family lives in the district.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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15 Comments

  1. Families already in the system should mail-in K info too
    What does not make sense is that this is in-person registration is required of families who ALREADY have older students in the district schools, they just now also have an incoming Kindergartener.

    At the very least, District 65 should consider allowing these parents to mail in or drop off paperwork including photocopies of residency and even an original birth certificate for their Kindergartener.

    I think most parents would prefer paying for an original birth certificate document to spending an entire day at JEH.

    This is such an unnecessary waste of everyone’s time. For those completely new to the district, perhaps it is necessary. But returning families should also have the mail-in option for their Kindergartener!

  2. Families already in the system should mail-in K info too
    Walk-in registration is too much of a burden for working parents. It is especially ridiculous if you are enrolling your second child. I didn’t hear about this announcement and it will be ridiculous if I can’t get my kindergartner into the same school as my older child this year.

    1. Registration
      I remember just a few years ago when people were demanding “something be done” about all of the out of district kids in our schools. Thus the new, more difficult registration process. Now the backlash is going the other way and parents want it to be easier to register. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

  3. No wonder D65 has financial woes — basic math and efficiency
    Here’s an administrator from District 65 talking:

    Markham says the district staff can only process about 45 registrations per hour, but managed to complete well over 300 during the course of the eight-hour registration period.

    Here’s some basic math:

    45 registrations per hour
    x 8 hours of taking registrations
    _______

    360 applications

    Based on those numbers, District 65 should expect its employees to process 360 applications in a typical registration day.

    So processing “well over 300” applications in an 8-hour day isn’t setting any records.

    And if you have never been to kindergarten registration, you are missing an enormous bureaucratic jumble. I could not believe the huge number of employees assigned to this process with station upon station of employees. Those unfortunate souls (like me) who needed to sign up for before and/or after school child care in the process really had a treat of waiting in various lines.

    How about making most of the process online? Then a parent who submits all of the necessary information online could use that online system to select a date and time in which to present any needed paperwork in person.

    With 82 percent of District 65’s expenses going to salaries and benefits, the District 65 Board needs to enter the 21st century and use technology to reduce staff costs as soon as possible. Creating an online system for most of the registration process is an easy step that would also reduce the time that parents need to stand in line.

    1. Increase Kindergarten Class Sizes NOW
      More basic math for you: The answer here is easy. Simply put a few more tables and chairs into the kindergarten classroom and increase your class size. Oh, wait, the teacher’s union won’t like that.

      Wait, who’s the customer here? Imagine buying a $650,000 house in northwest Evanston and paying the $12,000 (or more?) tax bill only to find you cannot get your child into the local school.

      And, is Evanston REALLY selling the school building it owns on Dempster and Hinman to Chiaravalle? When we are facing overcrowding in our schools?

      1. At the board meeting
        it was board members against raising class sizes over 23. Don’t think it has much to do with teachers union … class size isn’t in their contract that I know of.

  4. Parents wait unnecessarily
    Unless parents have no children currently enrolled in d 65 and want to attend one of the overcrowded schools, there was was no reason to wait in the line Tuesday.
    Registration could be completed easily during lunch hour or evening hours yesterday (took me well under an hour) and the same will probably be true today.

    1. But won’t you be surprised
      But won’t you be surprised if your school has 23 students already registered for each kindergarten classroom by the time that you submitted your paperwork. There were likely more than 500 students registered for kindergarten by the time that you got there.

      You don’t know what the District 65 administration will do. They may change the rules on siblings. They may reduce the number of kindergartens at your local school. Your child may be going to another school because you waited. But at least you didn’t have to wait in line very long.

      When you snooze, you can lose, especially with the way that District 65 runs things. Others weren’t willing to take the chance.

      1. Actually, I would be shocked
        if my kid didn’t get in to our school. There is no reason that the district would not honor sibling preference. It is in the best interest of kids and families. I do not subscribe to the thought that the district and board sit around thinking of new ways to screw with families, as some people seem to. They are doing the best with what they have to work with.

        1. Good luck
          I don’t believe that the District 65 administration and board sit around thinking of new ways to screw with families.

          But the District 65 administration and board do not care if their decisions inconvenience you or your family — or even if their decisions inconvenience every family in the District. They also won’t necessarily consider what’s best for students or families. It is impossible to predict the competing factors that District 65 will use to make its decisions.

          So I wish you good luck as the District 65 administration and board member decide where your child will attend kindergarten. My family has had its share of shocking decisions from District 65 so I have quit being shocked by anything that District 65 dreams up.

        2. It is a sad thought to think
          it is a sad thought to think that admin sit around thinking of new ways to screw families…but the rarely work to help those that do get messed up…an example being a neighbor has her ELL children in TWI. 2 older kids are in 3rd and 5th grade at Dawes. The child that entered kinder this year was sent to Willard because there was no space left in the Dawes TWI K. As you may imagine, this kind of screws a family up..and administration wouldn’t help move the kindergarten student. Therefore, sibling preference is usually honored… but a parent really needs to voice their concerns when it doesn’t happen.

  5. D65 registration
    Hello

    I was one of the “over 300” who was there on February 23rd to register my children who are new to the district. I arrived at 6:45am and received number 79 as my place in line. That turned to be a number that when called got me another number, this time 88, for another line. I did not see registration personnel until 10:30am, so actually, if registration started at 7am they were seeing about 25 an hour. I guess it took a while to get going or maybe they didn’t start on time.

    The whole experience was unnecessarily stressful and unpleasant.

    There was chaos and confusion. There were computer glitches. It was loud; few of the parents could be bothered to stop their conversations when workers asked so they were forced to shout information over the din. Some of the rules being given by the workers were arbitrary or incorrect or were not previously mentioned in any of the guidelines i.e. bills must be current but not younger than 3 months. The experience had the panicky feel of a crisis.

    The final unsettling bit is that ultimately they couldn’t tell me whether my children were going to be “in or out” of our local school. We won’t know until May because there was no count being taken of students compared actual open spaces. All I have is a time stamp that puts my documents in a certain place on a list to be evaluated for the next 10 weeks. That was the strangest part.

    Someone pointed out above how it would be disappointing (to say the least) if you paid a bucket of money in cost and taxes for a home to then find out you couldn’t attend the school in your neighborhood. Maybe you sacrificed all your savings to get your kids into that local school. Maybe you put yourself into severe debt or worse. This is a serious issue and maybe D65 could be a little more professional in the future about how it handles these situations out of recognition of that fact.

    Regards

    Steve

    1. K Registration
      I too am extremely upset by what I experienced and witnessed at Kindergarten Registration on Tuesday, February 23.

      The administration had no good plan in place. They clearly were unprepared to handle this many parents. They should have prepared for masses and had a game plan in place. AND when it was clear they were in over their heads, they should have stopped for 2 minutes and reconfigured their plan.

      Just after 8:00 am it became obvious that some people had to leave and had abandoned their spot. It was disheartening to realize that this process was truly discriminatory. Only those with the means to sit there that long, who could get out of work, didn’t work or had means to provide alternative childcare at home that day would be able to register. This makes me feel sick.

      The process got exponentially slower as time went by. The woman with number 2 was finished in 30 minutes; number 55 was finished in 2 hours 50 minutes. I was finished in 3 hours 45 minutes. Friends who arrived in the 9:00 hour were there until mid-afternoon.

      The scene itself was unbelievable. Many parents were still in pajamas, many were dressed for work. There were parents with small children and parents panicking about how to get their kids to school since they clearly didn’t think they would be gone from home by the time schools started. The worst were the parents who had to give up their spots to leave for work. It was a tense, unhappy environment. It shed a terrible light on Evanston.

      In the end, was this worth it? Was it worth the cost to the general population to have made this NOT YET VOTED ON decision? By trying to affect the “least amount of people” you wound up affecting the most.

      And Tuesday was the best day that many working parents could attend…did you know that there was a discrepancy in the information that went out to parents? The information sheet in the Kindergarten packet folders stated that registration was Tuesday, 7:00am-3pm and Wednesday and Thursday 12pm-7pm. HOWEVER, all the electronic information sent by the administration over the course of the last week stated that the Wednesday and Thursday times were 12pm-3pm. Until Wednesday’s late afternoon email blast, many working parents would have assumed that Tuesday was the only day they could be there. These administrative mistakes affect so many and I don’t think that the board nor the administration truly understand the impact.

      And while I’m on the subject of informing the public….I personally took it upon myself to contact the Child Care Network of Evanston to get the word out to all the preschools in Evanston. They kindly forwarded the email I had from the district (which I now know had the wrong times) explaining the importance of registering this week to every preschool in their database….again proving that parents have to do the job of the administration.

      Our school board members govern this administration. They should have worked closely with them to make sure all bases were covered after making such an important decision. When the administration makes mistakes it is up to the board to hold them accountable. Did anyone on the board meet with the administration last week to discuss their plan? Did they just give them “the nod” and assume it would be handled well? If so, then shame on them! This administration’s track record is terrible. They make huge mistakes all the time and this was no exception.

      I was ashamed by what I saw and how we were treated. I feel like my time was not important to this administration or this school board. I feel like they made a rash decision and threw us to the wolves. And I hope that they will all be held accountable by this community to fix this mess.

      Sincerely,
      Nicole Jacob Marks

      1. Just to clarify
        Parents could get a number and leave to do any number of things – go to work, take kids to school, go home and give babies a nap, etc – and when they returned either later Tuesday or the next day, their number would be honored and they would not have to wait. I was told this by a woman on her way out when I was going in and it was true.

        Under the circumstances, I’m not sure how the district could have handled the crowds any better. Going forward, I would suggest the district use a system similar to the park district where all registrations done during the three day period are given equal chance in a lottery of the class/program they want. The goal is to incent parents to register in advance.

        Any other suggestions?

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