Offers Arrive

72 percent of families get top kindergarten pick as fewer schools have waitlists

Slightly more families received an offer to their top-ranked kindergarten program this year and fewer schools put students on waiting lists, officials said Tuesday as families were sent offer letters.

More than 72 percent of the 67,907 students who applied for a kindergarten slot before this year’s deadline received their top choice, a 1.2 point increase over last year. Nearly 85 percent of families received an offer to one of their top three choices.

While every applicant who met the Feb. 18 deadline received an offer, about one in ten students did not get accepted into any of the schools listed on their applications, the education department officials said. Those 6,838 students were also added to waiting lists at the schools where they applied.

This year, 51 schools have waiting lists of students who live in their zones but were not offered spots, down from 63 schools last year. Still, the number of students on such lists — about 1,240— stayed the same. Officials and experts said many of those students are likely to be accepted from the waiting lists before next school year as other families move or switch to private schools, charter schools, or gifted-and-talented programs.

“This is a great step in the right direction and we’ll continue working to best serve all families,” Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.

Officials did not immediately release the names of schools with waiting lists Tuesday. Last year, the waiting lists were cut in half when the city added a new online application system called Kindergarten Connect, which allows parents to apply for up to 12 schools at once rather than do so in person at each school as they had to in the past.

This year, 77 percent of parents applied online, 14 percent applied over the phone, and 9 percent visited an enrollment office, officials said.

In addition to the online application process, officials attributed the uptick in first-choice offers and the decline in waiting lists this year to new outreach to parents of pre-kindergarten students. The city informed those parents of available kindergarten options, which helped them make more strategic choices on their applications, the officials said.

Families that choose to accept offers must pre-register at the schools by May 6, which does not prevent a student from still receiving an offer from a school where they are on a waiting list. Families who have not yet applied to kindergarten must now apply in person at schools.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.