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Let the Penn Alexander kindergarten registration madness begin

Posted on 18 January 2013

Penn Alexander

As of about noon, 66 people were in line. If it continues, the duration of this year’s line will be measured in days not hours.

UPDATE: The School District of Philadelphia decided tonight that Penn Alexander will go to a lottery system for kindergarten. See Superintendent William Hite’s statement here.

At the risk of contributing to the hysteria surrounding kindergarten registration at the Penn Alexander School, we feel compelled to post something. The line has already begun and as of about noon included about 70 people.

Registration for next year’s kindergarten class begins Tuesday morning. Small clusters of parents nervously huddled and strategized along the 4200 block of Locust Street this morning. They spoke about the provisions and shelter they will need to stand in line for four days. One parent said she rented an RV to park near the school.

All vowed that they would not start the line, but that they would be nearby ready to join it if someone else did. That happened about two hours later, when a woman – a prospective student’s grandmother – started the line.

“I am a nervous person, I saw people standing around and I didn’t know what to do,” said the woman, who is holding a spot for her son.

She was in a line that had started earlier – at about 8:20 a.m. – but broke up after parents of current Penn Alexander students, who had just dropped their kids off, asked the lined-up parents to leave. One reader wrote us:

“I could hardly believe my eyes but at 8:20 this morning there were parents lining up outside Penn Alexander for registration, which I believe starts Tuesday morning.  Other parents or community members were confronting them and asking them to leave, threatening to call the cops to disperse them.  A child was shivering in her mother’s arms.  Is there any talk of moving to a lottery next year?  The current way seems insane.  If kindergarten registration is going to be a physical endurance test they might as well schedule a footrace from a mile away and award spots to the parents that finish first.  (Not a serious suggestion, just pointing out the absurdity of awarding spots to parents who camp out in the cold for 4 days.)”

Here is a timeline to illustrate how we got here.

• 2010 – The line started in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. This is the year where things seemed to have changed.

• 2011 - The line started at about 10 p.m. the night before registration began, prompting television news crews to interview parents. A spot in kindergarten becomes even more coveted when the District announces that students who did not attend PAS for kindergarten may not get a spot in first grade due to overcrowding.

• 2012 – The line last year started 24 hours before registration began. The Spruce Hill Community Association distributed a letter to parents in line calling for community residents to make their voices heard on the issue. It began, “No one should have to line up in the cold for nearly 24 hours to register their child for kindergarten.”

If the trend of lining up earlier and earlier continues, that 24-hour wait will soon seem like the good old days of kindergarten registration when all you needed was a cup of coffee, some snacks and a sleeping bag. Now you need an RV.

The line could become a public health issue. It is already a social justice issue.

The first-come-first-served system, of course, favors those who are connected and can rearrange their lives for a few days. Some will just not be able to compete – those who work inflexible jobs, single moms or parents for whatever reason simply can’t spy on that stretch of Locust Street along the school’s north side waiting for the line to start. That said, no parents can be blamed for doing what they perceive is best for their child.

The School District of Philadelphia last year approved a additional kindergarten class that the University of Pennsylvania funded. But some kids were still turned away. The District and the School Reform Commission has bigger, whale-sized fish to fry – budget shortfalls, school closures, failing schools. Those are profoundly important issues.

Shouldn’t devising an admission system that keeps parents off the sidewalk be comparatively easy?

– Mike Lyons (editor)

 

95 Comments For This Post

  1. GoldenMonkey Says:

    It’s time to shrink the catchement. Sorry Garden Court’eurs, you’re not welcome.

  2. Michael Says:

    “Shouldn’t devising an admission system that keeps parents off the sidewalk be comparatively easy?”

    Yes, but shouldn’t someone asking this question publically sign their name to it? Anonymous posts contribute to the hysteria and make it easier for misinformation to spread.

  3. f'em'all Says:

    if anyone wants to pay me to be a place holder hit me up

  4. Suzanne Says:

    SMDH. i really am speechless. this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

  5. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    Everything about this is wrong. When a neighborhood school with a defined catchment is able to turn away families it ceases to be a neighborhood school and becomes a special admission school. Plain and simple, Jack. Does any other ‘neighborhood school’ turn away people from their neighborhood?

    I won’t even get into the question of people who actually live there versus just owning property there or renting a mailing address. Another faceless online fight for another faceless online day.

  6. Jen Horner Says:

    I hope nothing bad happens. I won’t be surprised if the police disperse the line as a public health measure.
    @Michael – Mike Lyons is the editor of westphillylocal. He is a professional journalist and takes responsibility for what is posted.

  7. fiveblocksaway Says:

    Aren’t we glad that little girl lied about an abduction at that “little engine that could” school Lea fiveblocksaway???? “Oh no dear, we can’t send our kids there…it’s not GREEN enough or SAFE ENOUGH YET”. This school can’t catch a fair break, Lea. Penn Alexander is at an OBSCENE capacity, and this nonsense tailgating is a clear example of the hypocrisy and ridiculousness that exists in West Philly among schools and its families and where they believe they can get a great public school education. How can you demand greatness from a school that is over capacity yet turn a blind eye/ear to a school OUTSIDERS (read: people who don’t even have their kids at Lea, yet are concerned w/ its aesthetics) that deserve to have similar resources? I’m SICK of this happening year in and year out, and this year takes the cake. Wait until March.

  8. fiveblocksaway Says:

    To clarify, OUTSIDERS that care about Lea who don’t have kids attending there, who want for this schol to be as “great” as Penn Alexander who wish for it to be as SAFE and RESOURCEFUL as Penn Alexander…

  9. King Cheetah Says:

    It’s really unfortunate how if you’re not lucky enough to go to a top magnet school like Greenfield and Penn Alexander then on to Central, Masterman, Imhotep, etc. you’re pretty much shifted to a lower reaching trajectory statistically. Would be nice if ALL the school had the money and resources they needed.

    On the bright side, it’s nice to see so many parents lining up and wanting the best for their children… even if there will be disappointment for many once the cap is reached.

  10. Joel Says:

    11:50am – School police just showed up. Maybe they are going to ask the loiterers to move along. I feel bad for all the parents who have to endure this.

  11. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    It is a d**n shame what is being done to Lea. Local schools were closed and Lea is going to have to take on additional students. The school will spend this summer and probably part of next year growing into its newly doubled population while PSA is bursting at the seams.

    In reality, it is a special admission school. Except the criteria for admission are that at least one parent must be able to secure multiple days off of work and possess the fortitude to brave the elements.

    I agree with the footrace idea. Or Plink-O. I want the best for my child too but if that translated into missing work, I’d lose my job and then school would be the least of our worries.

  12. Kim Woodbridge Says:

    My daughter goes to PAS and I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 11 years. Actually, when I moved to the area I was looking for a bigger apartment at a decent price, since I had been living in the Filter Square area and could no longer afford it. But, I wasn’t even thinking about school when I moved here and actually lucked out that I was in the catchment. Now, it’s no longer an area to get an affordable apartment. When I registered my daughter in 2007 I got there shortly after registration started and made it in enough time. It seemed a little unfair but I had no idea what was coming in the next couple of years. And at that time, if you didn’t get into K you were still guaranteed a spot in first grade.

    And even though I want the “best” for my child, I don’t think I would wait in the line for 4 days in this cold. I would send her to another school and help her get the most of it – which, is what I already do even though she goes to PAS.

    Anyway, I was at CVS around 11:30 and saw the line – I thought it can’t possibly be for K registration …

    This needs to change – it can’t continue like this from year to year. And, we need all public schools to be as desirable … although I guess I’m having a dreamer moment.

  13. cg Says:

    I was in line last year and my kid ended up on the waitlist without getting a spot, in spite of the new class. Most of the spots in the added class went to Headstart kids according to the PAS admin. And I can tell you that more than a “few” kids got turned away.

    Based on my position in line I’d estimate that about 20 families got turned away in spite of the added class.

  14. cg Says:

    I also want to add that my kid is now at Lea and is having a really positive experience. He has an excellent teacher, is learning a lot and has made many new friends. And Principal Bell-Chiles is doing a fantastic job, is personable and on top of things.

    I’d strongly urge any parent going through this ordeal to consider Lea a viable alternative. I say that as a parent who waited in the PAS line last year for 24 hours and places a high premium on quality education.

  15. Anon Says:

    Happy Curmudgeon: Other neighborhood schools turn away in-catchment students when they cannot accomodate them. The district has procedures in place to refer to nearby schools when that happens. As PAS catchment parents have found, living in a catchment only guarantees you the right to register at that particular school, not necessarily enroll.

  16. Humanity Fails Says:

    This saddens me greatly. I feel that whoever started the line is being extremely selfish. You may be guaranteeing a spot for your child, but are very likely disqualifying others who may well be the children of friends and neighbors who did not anticipate this level of insanity and dutifully went to work. They are now out of the game by virtue of being responsible employees.

    I will be in that line next year(unless someone decides to start the line on Wednesday or Thursday and I only have the foresight to request off on Friday). Can I plant a shrub near the start of the line to reserve my place for next year?

  17. ks Says:

    I currently have 2 children at PAS; I waited in line last year for 24hrs to get my middle child into kindergarten. I am ready to wait in line for 2015 as well to get my youngest in. For me, this is about a NEIGHBORHOOD school, it’s about community and a village — my children can now attend a school with the kids they went to the neighborhood daycare with; these are the kids they see at the park on the weekends; and for me, as a parent, it allows me to build relationships with other families so I can provide support to them with pickups and dropoffs and playdates. It’s about knowing the other families _and_ it’s about keeping my children together.

  18. cbc Says:

    This just made me cry sitting at my desk… at Penn. I can not believe that the other schools in the area are so poorly rated that perents would do this to themselves. Can you imagine the improvement the Lea could make if people were this dedicated to it, on a regular basis, not just 4 (next year 5 or 6) days a year?

  19. Jake Says:

    As a longtime Philadelphia resident, PAS has always made me uncomfortable in that it draws attention both for its strengths and for failings such as these, narrowing the focus of educational quality in this city to a single school (arguable two if you include Lea as part of the discussions).

    The answer is not, “shrink the catchment” as GoldenMonkey presumable hopes for his/her own benefit (comment above), it’s about recognizing the obvious disparities that this system sets up for children as early as kindergarten that, as King Cheetah noted above, arbitrarily sets them on a particular educational trajectory.

  20. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    @Anon: any idea what schools are actually turning kids away rather than theoretically turning kids away?

    @ks: You are fortunate to have four days to spend in line and to have neighborhood friends who are able to do the same. What are you going to do if/when your third child doesn’t get in?

  21. Michael Says:

    Where is Penn’s voice in this debate? Penn lured families to the neighborhood with PAS. Amy Gutmann needs to communicate with those families.

  22. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    This should bother everyone:

    “She was in a line that had started earlier – at about 8:20 a.m. – but broke up after parents of current Penn Alexander students, who had just dropped their kids off, asked the lined-up parents to leave.”

    Those on the inside casting away those on the outside. Because it’s a neighborhood school and it builds up the neighborhood.

  23. Anon Says:

    Happy Curmudgeon: Please see all of the Northeast- a far and distant land I know- and particularly when a student is attempting to enroll mid-year. Any time a school has reached its class size maximums, which at other schools is higher than at PAS, for that grade level a new student will likely be referred out than levelling the classes after September.

  24. K Says:

    See you in January 2017, PAS sidewalk! Should be a hoot.

  25. ANON Says:

    It really is a shame how this approach eliminates the children of parents who can’t stand in line for days chances of getting in a good, neighborhood school. As far as Lea goes, I hope it does become a truly viable option for parents, I know two years ago it wasn’t for me. I don’t understand how there is always more kindergartners each year. I thought by now it would have dropped off.

  26. Arwin Says:

    Just heard from my cousin that parents camped out in front of some Chattanooga magnet schools for TWO MONTHS to get their kids in. Let’s hope PAS doesn’t get to that point.

  27. I. M. Ici Says:

    I was just up there. What a shame all kids can’t get an education at a school like PAS. One guy was building a structure out of plywood and plastic pipes. It is going to be a cold couple of nights.

  28. Editor Says:

    @Arwin. True. But Chattanooga changed to lottery a couple of years ago. Seems sensible. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/dec/06/chattanooga-lottery-chooses-magnet-students/

  29. Editor Says:

    Here’s another alternative. Apologies for the commercial before the video:
    http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/national/one-woman-injured-when-parents-rush-toward-special-school-during-registration

  30. Tim Says:

    I think more people should give serious consideration to homeschooling their children.

  31. Arwin Says:

    Agreed that the lottery is what makes sense. I’m just shocked it got so bad before they changed things. 60 days of waiting? It sounds like they should have instituted a lottery long, long before then.

  32. Journo Prof Says:

    @Jen, with all due respect, a “professional journalist” should know better than to lobby for a lottery or a “system that keeps parents off the sidewalk.” Journalists present a story by reporting facts. Also, a journalist should always disclose any possible conflicts of interest. Does this journalist live in the catchment? Rent? Own? Have a child at PAS?

    My two cents.

  33. fiveblocksaway Says:

    “Can you imagine the improvement the Lea could make if people were this dedicated to it, on a regular basis, not just 4 (next year 5 or 6) days a year?”
    “I’d strongly urge any parent going through this ordeal to consider Lea a viable alternative. I say that as a parent who waited in the PAS line last year for 24 hours and places a high premium on quality education.”

    cg,THANK YOU!!!

    and ENOUGH examples of “parents-gone-wild” folks who think a quality education begins and ends w/ Kindergarten under these panicked circumstances!

    Reminds me of a Black Friday sale or the next iPad unveiling at an Apple store;/.

  34. fiveblocksaway Says:

    PAS Kindergarten registration has become a meme-worthy punchline to an already bursting-at-the seams ongoing monologue for the state of public education in Philly. I can only imagine what other cities w/ similar challenges must see this as from the outside in. Desperate or demanding?!

  35. Editor Says:

    @journoprof We write stories from the perspective of someone who lives in the neighborhood (which we do). We reported this story in years past as a straight news story, but this year we wanted to do something a little different. In the past we have been accused of contributing to the madness. But now, yes, we want to try to spur a conversation about how this can be fixed. We’re lobbying for change, not a specific solution. We have also written many articles about how the community can help improve other schools, which is the best long-term solution for all of us. That’s what we do.
    Our credentials are here if you’re interested:
    http://www.westphillylocal.com/about/

  36. cg Says:

    ANON (and anyone else), I’m curious as to why you wrote off Lea two years ago. I’ve talked to a number of parents who similarly write off the school but can never explain to me why.

  37. Charles Says:

    cg – thanks for your post! My daughter is having a similarly positive experience. We are in Lea catchment and decided that committing to our neighborhood school was important to us, even as our daughter’s preschool peers were either in PAS catchment or opted for voluntary transfer. I hope some readers will take your comments seriously.

  38. Kofu Says:

    This was wrong from the beginning, and some of us saw it then and told it. It’s a suburban-type school in the heart of the city, the school district acquiesced in letting Penn make it what they wanted, and so it goes…

  39. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    Guessing “JournoProf” is shorthand for “not a working journalist”

  40. Lauren Says:

    When I moved to the neighborhood five years ago, I thought PAS looked like such a beacon of what public education in Philly could be. Now that so many kids are being turned away, it seems a little uglier– and this is not to say the school itself is bad, but that it is a big, hulking symbol of the education people in the neighborhood without abundant resources just can’t have. I would love to read a piece about how PAS came to be and why there is no way “share the wealth” with Lea and other nearby schools. It seems like it would be of more value to the neighborhood to have generally good schools rather than One Perfect School and 1 or two “alternatives” if you’re too far back in the line.

  41. Suzanne Says:

    “One Perfect School”. Let’s not carried away here. My daughter has been at PAS for the last 7 years. It’s a good school, by Phila public school standards. But it is a far cry from “Great”. If we were to compare it to the average suburban school, it would be fair to middling.

    The truth of the matter is that the resources go to the high achieving and to the woefully underachieving students and if your child is in the middle of the pack, or struggling but not making trouble, they get precious little attention.

    I don’t have very high expectations of schools. Because of that, PAS seems to basically meet my expectations. PAS is a safe environment and I feel like my kid will not be jumped or harassed or otherwise assaulted there. The building is pleasant and comfortable. The teachers, overall, are competent but clearly favor the most academically successful students.

    However, good enough is NOT great. And with Lea in the wings, it makes ZERO sense to me why anyone would wait in line to enroll their kid in kindergarten at PAS. It seems that parents of young kids have gotten the memo about the scarcity of seats at PAS and the response is to turn it into an insane waiting game. I’d love to hear from some of today’s line-standers about what they’ve got as a “Plan B”. Surely there must be a Plan B,C, D because demand clearly exceeds supply. No matter how stalwart you are.

    Folks, the Emperor has no clothes. It’s not great. But it is fine. Let’s not over state an already bulbous mythology.

  42. Suzanne Says:

    Wow. I wonder if it will be a lottery just for “catchment” kids or if it will be district-wide. We tried the lottery for one of our kids last year and she made the cut for exactly ZERO of 4 schools.

  43. anonymous Says:

    Each year I read the comments here and watch the news coverage with much sadness, for the parents who could afford to move here and couldn’t get in. For the families unable to get in line at all. Everyone knows its a ludicrous way of doing things, but the bigger question (if anyone knows the answer) would be why haven’t they changed to a lottery system? Are they against fairnness

  44. LW Says:

    FYI, the lottery story here. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/Penn-Alexander-to-go-to-lottery-for-registration.html

    Most (but not all) seem to be pleased, according to the story.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    Suzanne, lottery in April for in-catchment kids only:

    https://twitter.com/PhillyEducation/status/292419091967406080/photo/1/large

  46. Cher Says:

    Ok, great. I see a lottery has been ordered within the past hour. Its about time. Too bad it wasn’t there for the hundreds that never had a chance when they were entering kindergarden. One said it was a catastrophe for the neighborhood, and some parents were angry. I wonder why?

  47. Lauren Says:

    @suzanne: the “One Perfect School” is in reference to the mythology and not the reality. Why else would parents line up 4 days in advance of registration? My husband and I have been looking at buying a house in the neighborhood, and honestly there is no way anyone who is not “rich” can afford to buy in catchment. We certainly can’t. Presumably if you can afford a 500k house you can afford to send your kid to private school. I understand that people want to take advantage of a great public school education, and that’s why I assume people are lining up. Thus the “One Perfect School”. Honestly anyone that can afford/ has the dedication to stand in line for 4 days for their child’s education is going to have a kid that turns out ok no matter what elementary school they attend.

  48. cg Says:

    Well said Lauren. Yes.

  49. Audrea Hedman Says:

    I am a parent from the 2012 kindergarten line last year….This is the letter I sent to over 60 elected officials including the governor who told the principal to admit my daughter and she still wouldn’t. My daughter is still NOT at this school STILL waiting…..Lea is a horrible option failed 6 years a row in corrective action II as opposed to Alexander Wilson which has passed the last 5 out of the 7 years. Wilson is on the school closure list please help to keep this school open by attending the Jan 23rd meeting from 6pm-8pm at University City High 36th and Filbert…Otherwise if your child doesn’t get into Penn Alexander which only 57 did last year and the first day there were over 100 registered your child will go to Lea and FAIL!

    To whom it may concern- ,

    I need your help and if you are not able to help us, then I would like the name and phone number of the person that can. I will not stop till this is accomplished.

    My daughter has been DENIED enrollment in her neighborhood public school for Kindergarten this September 2012 in Philadelphia. (Penn Alexander: 4209 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19104).She is 5. I am a single mom who works full time. We are a low income family with no additional family in the state as I am originally from California.She has been in daycare 10 hours a day, 5 days a week since she was 8 months old. I have lived in this school’s catchment for 12 years for this reason, have been communicating with Parent Infant Center ( the afterschool program) since 2007 and been on the waitlist since 2010 at PIC, maintained CCIS( child care subsidy) all through this time while earning enough money to provide for me and my daughter with no child support. I use public transportation as I am unable to afford a car on a single salary. The school in question is Penn Alexander. Let me tell you what its like to register for this school.

    Registration opened at 9AM on January 23rd, 2012. My 5 year old daughter and I were in line before noon of the day before in the cold, snow, and rain. Unfortunately, a group of parents who have kids already at PIC and Penn Alexander had formed a pact and all informed each other when to go out together, so when we got there 23 hours before time, we were 70 back. There had been a premade list of unofficial numbers and names on a clipboard when I got there and no one would tell me how they got these “unofficial” numbers so this pushed us way back. We had to endure the freezing cold (in the low 20’s), stay overnight, knowing that this ridiculous, abusive system was wrong. My 5 year old and I slept on lawn chairs with 5 layers of clothing and blankets so we wouldn’t get frostbite in the freezing snow and rain. Luckily, CVS at 43rd and Locust allowed us to use the restroom and some kind souls brought us food as we stayed in line scared to lose our place in line. Now on April 28, 2012 my daughter receives a letter saying she can NOT attend her school and I am to REPORT to Penn Alexander to get an extenuating circumstance transfer form so that the school district can decide which school Illiana can go to. Let me remind you, I have no car, I am a single parent working full time to make ends meet with no additional help, and Illiana is 5 going on 6 in December 2012.

    Let me also say Penn Alexander is not the only place I applied since I was 70 deep in the line. The charter schools we applied to she didn’t get into since they are lottery run, the other public schools in my area I am not in their catchment so they will not let me even apply until I fill out an extenuating circumstance form and it goes through the official School District and she is placed by them. The Christian school is 950/month in my area with afterschool and that cannot be afforded on my single salary. So I am supposed to wait till the end of August beginning of September to find out where they place my child for Kindergarten. At this point it will be too late to find afterschool and change my CCIS which is mandatory if I am to make it financially since I don’t receive a single bit of other help. There is one other public school that will take her even though we are out of their catchment. Posted on the website of after school care facilities covered by CCIS is a place claimed to be within walking distance of this school (over a mile and through boarded up houses, dangerous areas, and no lights) and she is supposed to be able to walk there by herself at age 5. If she goes to this school I will lose CCIS because the school’s afterschool program does not accept it and I may either lose my job because it’s too far away for me to make my work schedule or I may not be able to get my child to school every day because there is no school bus in the morning or evening and we live far from the school. I must be at work before school starts and it is impossible for me to make this area at day’s end without leaving my job early. How can it be that I am working so hard to take care of myself and my daughter, living in the right area, setting everything up, and TURNED AWAY by the public school raised to take these children? Oh, did I forget to mention – Penn Alexander claimed the wait outside was unnecessary that they don’t want parents to line up, but obviously, since the school district is not making sure the children of this neighborhood can go to there own school, they are abusing their power. This is the first thing the school said to us after waiting all day Sunday and through the night but if I hadn’t waited in line what number would I have been then? 100? 200? Let me remind you that only a few days into the registration Penn Alexander was over the 100 mark of Kindergarten children applying.

    She MUST go to this school for kindergarten all the way through 8th grade. I will lose everything I have worked for, I will not be able to get my child to school, pick her up from After School Care, lose my CCIS, and why – because the promised education for each child in a safe environment that is accessible to all families has determined it will not be available for myself who has geared for it since my baby was born.

    I am requesting you make an immediate determination that my daughter is ALLOWED to go to her school, that the arrangement is made, and the way provided NOW, particularly since school is almost out and the proper people are IMPOSSIBLE to get a hold of then. If you are not able to make this happen immediately, please provide me with the name and phone number of the person that can, as I will not give up.

  50. Charles Says:

    Audrea Hedman: Really, the governor told the principal of PAS to admit your child? As the young people say, pix or it didn’t happen.

  51. Audrea Hedman Says:

    Oh I have the proof I stood out 24 hours in line with my child since I am a single parent I have the letters from the governor and Chaka Fattah…….This is child abuse and any parent who decided to stand outside for 4 days with their child is crazy…

  52. Suzanne Says:

    Oh man. Audrea. What did you do? I can practically feel your panic. I really want to know what you figured out.

    Lauren- thanks for clarifying that you really didn’t see PAS as a “great school”. Not all families, mine included, paid $500k to live in Uni City. Lots of families bought before 2000 and paid about $180k for their houses. Granted, probably not the younger families, but a fair number of the middle school families did. There are families who ponied up the $500k and are STRAPPED after their mortgage and utilities. They can’t afford private tuition on top of that nut. And you’re probably right about the tenacity of the line-standers predicting success for their kids.

    If you don’t already have kids, you do have at least 6 years and honestly, there is legit reason to be optimistic about other schools in the area rising up… At some point the demand will so far exceed the supply that the city and school district will move resources to that density. I mean, that’s what I’ve heard at every single City Planning, Community Civic Group meeting and zoning meeting I’ve attended in the last 2 years.

    My husband and I have lived in Uni City for over 25 years. We love the neighborhood and more and more folks are feeling the same way and moving in. I can’t see those folks standing by with things as they are. They aren’t actually. The Coalition for West Philly Schools is led by a woman who is now expecting her first child, but she started with this group 2 years ago. And she’s not the only person who is basically helping to create a community they want to live and raise their families in. You will have to live “outside of catchment” to be able to afford it, but Cedar Park, Squirrel Hill, Walnut Hill and Garden Court have their charms and ammenities. The Schools will catch up. I believe this.

    Peace

  53. LW Says:

    Lauren: “honestly there is no way anyone who is not “rich” can afford to buy in catchment. We certainly can’t.”

    Hopefully, once the local realtors catch up with this latest news, they will be tossing their “IN CATCHMENT!” yard sign addenda into the trash, and painting new ones that say “ELIGIBLE FOR CATCHMENT LOTTERY!”

    Then maybe the bubble will begin to deflate a little.

  54. FindMe Says:

    I graduated from Penn Alexander and I think that a lottery will ruin the feel of Penn Alexander. We grew up together in a tight community and after graduating we have the ability to stick together. We all have parents that were the type that would willingly stick outside for 4 days to keep their children in one of the greatest schools in University City. The lottery will randomly except those that sat at home in the comfort of blankets while others sacrificed their comfort. There is a reason it was first come first serve. Some NEED their children to get in. Those who want their children to have a great education and not have to pay thousand dollar tuitions on top of the increased rent from living in the catchment. Trust me on this one, first come first serve may be ridiculous in these conditions, but unless you have a better idea, it’s the best one out there

  55. Student Says:

    Also another student backing up the previous comment by probably a fellow classmate. here are the statistics from my graduating class
    Central: 14
    Masterman: 2
    Sla: 9 acceptances
    Capa: don’t know the number of acceptances but 2 attending students
    The rest I am honestly not sure of but no other school can put up those results. Especially because my grade only consisted of 36 people by the time we all graduated and when I started there were twice as many.

  56. Peter C Says:

    @FindMe – While I appreciate your point of view. I firmly believe that many parents who aren’t in line are not “at home in the comfort of blankets” but rather busy working to make ends meet or single parents without an extended support network in the local area that can allow them luxury of waiting in line. Until it can be proven that all parents in the catchment who aren’t waiting in line to have their children enrolled are just laze-abouts, I think the lottery is the only fair solution. I say this as a parent with the resources to wait in line for 4 days if need be when my son’s turn comes around next year.

  57. Parent Says:

    There are other Neighborhood Schools, We understand that. And you may believe they have great teachers if your kids are still at the elementary level, but their middle school teachers are what is so revolutionary about them. Mrs. Tubin, Mrs. Brown, Mr. Staniec, Mr. Johnson, they are some of the greatest teachers I have ever had the honor to know. My child was struggling and after going through their carefully mended curiculum, he is near the top of his class

  58. FindME Says:

    @Peter-C Regardless of the position of the other parents, a lottery will ruin the structure of the school. When kids cry at graduation it’s not because they’re finally escaping the hell of the school they’re endured for 9 years, it’s because it’s made the kids so close, so unified, that they can’t stand being separated even if they only live a few blocks away from each other. Yeah PAS provided us with a great education, they gave us something more, something a lot of schools can not offer because of the types of kids admitted to their schools. That was the point of my argument even if the basis was a little off. I’m honestly really distracted right now because I’m studying for mid-terms and trying to follow this so what I’m saying may not make total sense right now. Our unification as a class, as a community is indefatigable (new SAT word, trying them out in everyday speech)

  59. Student Says:

    To emphasize the unification of our class, I am 100% sure who FindMe is just because of the way she types. That’s how well we know each other.

  60. FindME Says:

    @Peter C Regardless of the position of the other parents, a lottery will ruin the structure of the school. When kids cry at graduation it’s not because they’re finally escaping the hell of the school they’re endured for 9 years, it’s because it’s made the kids so close, so unified, that they can’t stand being separated even if they only live a few blocks away from each other. Yeah PAS provided us with a great education, they gave us something more, something a lot of schools can not offer because of the types of kids admitted to their schools. That was the point of my argument even if the basis was a little off. I’m honestly really distracted right now because I’m studying for mid-terms and trying to follow this so what I’m saying may not make total sense right now. Our unification as a class, as a community is indefatigable (new SAT word, trying them out in everyday speech)

  61. Suzanne Says:

    FindME-

    I believe the lottery will consist of the same pool of kids who live in the area. Some of those kids will get in but “all” that do will be from the neighborhood. It shouldn’t change the vibe or bonding because it won’t be like lotteries at Independence Charter or FACT, who allow any child who lives in the county of Philadelphia a chance to, uh, win.

    And nice use of indefatigable. ;)

  62. Erin Says:

    (Cross-posted to the following story.) I live in the Lea catchment and my daughter is currently a kindergartner at Lea. Yes, the school has some image problems from the outside which reflect the time it was built, but inside the building is warm, cozy, and inviting. More importantly, my daughter loves her school experience. Like cg said on the previous story, she has a great teacher who she respects and adores, has made lots of friends, and comes home from school every day excited by what she has learned. She has made enormous strides in her literacy skills, and I am impressed by her teacher’s individualized plan for the year for my daughter and her plan for the entire class. I also have to mention my daughter’s strides in her art skills; the kindergartners have art class twice a week and not only have her technical art skills improved, she now can define abstract and representational art, not something I could do in kindergarten. She came into kindergarten with “advanced” math skills and her teacher has provided her with many opportunities to continue to grow in that subject, and I have been impressed with the creativity of how the math curriculum is implemented. The kindergartners have art, vocal music, science, library, and gym as part of their week, and with the exception of gym, my daughter loves it all. At the class special events and trips I’ve been at there has been a high level of parent involvement. Our experience has been positive, and I encourage everyone to visit the school and see what it has to offer.

  63. LW Says:

    Unity.

    I don’t understand how a lottery for K and first grades, versus the wait-in-line approach (which as others have pointed out, can be biased towards those with more resources), will ruin future ‘class unity.’

    Isn’t unity something that is developed over the years you are in school?

  64. Abby Slakoff Says:

    Insanity is not even the correct word. I’m a single hard working mom and fulltime employee of UPenn. My son was denied a spot for kindergarten last year all because I financially and physically did not have the means to camp out 24 hrs in advance.
    Dragging my 5 yr old out into the cold
    weather overnight was not an option for me.
    Yet I know parents who did camp out with their children and yet still were denied. It just shows this system is flawed. People are putting themselves at risk all for a spot in a kindergarten class. What about parents with
    serious health conditions that do not have any support systems in their lives? This system is just wrong and ran by a principal who is just rude and doesn’t even consider those who are less fortunate. I was convinced
    to fill out a pupil transfer and she said “he will be reassigned” . That never happened even after 100’s of attempts of calling the school board and visiting in person. Finally after the 1st day of kindergarten and no school for my child, I decided to take things into my own hands, took the day off and walked into Alexander Wilson despite the bad reputation the other Penn Alexander parents told me the school had during registration. I can honestly say that Wilson is the best school in the area.
    Yes, the building maybe older but it amazes how far my son has academically advanced and matured over this past year. The entire staff is excellent and makes the best out of
    what they have even putting their own money out at times to help students less fortunate.
    The principle Dr. Sonya Harrison is extremely involved and gets to know the children and their parents well. She’s someone who you can tell truly enjoys her job and cares about the children, their education, safety, and well being. I can also say the same for Mr. Rich and Mr. Tony, the two men running the Penn partnership after school program and so many other teachers and staff. The list would go on and on. Every morning when dropping my son off, I don’t have to worry. Unfortunately Wilson is one of the schools up for potential closing this year. I hope those parents waiting in line in this ridiculous cold weather for almost 5 days have considered their other options. Lea has been in correction action 2 for 6 years now and if Wilson closes this is where they plan on putting those children denied by Penn Alexander along with the Wilson students. Adding even more children to Lea who keep getting shuffled around is a recipe for disaster! This Wednesday Jan. 23 we have a say so if interested please come out and support Alexander Wilson from 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. at University City High School.

  65. FindME Says:

    @LW I said it in a previous comment; the unity was in response to something else that was deleted because it was full of profanity and I countered their argument well enough for them to realize their response to a student was inappropriate, irresponsible, and just plain ridiculous

  66. Peter C Says:

    @FindMe – But LW’s point still holds. If the lottery draws exclusively from students in the catchment, how will it jeopardize the unity you so cherish? All of the students will still be students who live in close proximity and attend school together which seems to be the root cause of the unity you describe.

  67. FindME Says:

    Aha, I don’t know. It made sense when I was writing it. My brain is fried, I blame mid-terms. I had a point though, let me think about that

  68. Erin Says:

    I visited Wilson when thinking about schools for my child and was impressed by Principal Harrison’s commitment and the beautiful building and playground. I also firmly believe that all children should be able to walk to school and think Wilson has much to offer the children who attend it. However, I do not think Wilson and Lea need to be positioned in competition. Criticizing Lea is not going to keep Wilson open. I hope that as neighbors, we can work together to ensure that all of our children go to schools that enrich their lives.

  69. Kimm Says:

    FindMe and Student,

    I’ve lived in this neighborhood far longer than you have been alive. I have a son in kindergarten but Penn drew the catchment lines two blocks from our home, so PAS was never an option for us. I’ve worked as a community organizer organizing parents for public school reform. I’ve watched the dynamics around PAS unfold since it was first proposed with a lot of discomfort, often anger, concern and frustration. And to my list of concerns I now need to add the lessons PAS students are taking from all of this.

    My first concern is that you seem to have learned that this is the way things should be – parents lining up in the bitter cold for hours or days to get their children an adequate public education. Please don’t learn that lesson. The situation at PAS is so wrong on so many levels. This is not at all the way it should be. It’s criminal.

    I grew up in the suburbs and attended public schools all my school career. I got an excellent education. My parents did not have to stand in line to get me into a good school. My parents were not “involved” in the school – they did not go to PTA meetings or sell brownies at bake sales. They were certainly involved with us as parents, doing their job – parenting, going to work to pay the bills; not fundraising, not volunteering in the classroom, not attending school district meetings to fight for resources and policy changes. Very few of my friends’ parents were, either. The schools took everyone – of every background, race, income level, political affiliation, religion. No one was excluded.

    And you know what? My class was really close too. And I got a great education. Because the schools I went to were great. Because they had the resources to be great.

    And don’t think that was just back in the old days. It’s true today, too – in other places, mostly outside of cities.

    If PAS is in fact a good school, or a great school, it will continue to be that no matter who is admitted. If PAS can only be a good school by serving the most privileged or motivated of the neighborhood’s residents, then it’s not really a good school after all. And frankly, I suspect that even kids in not-so-great schools probably feel close to their classmates. I agree with Suzanne – you’re close because you have been together for so long. Not because certain kids are excluded.

    My second concern is that you seem to believe that it is okay to exclude “the types of kids admitted to other schools.” PAS seems to need a better civics program. You are attending a public school, funded by all of the taxpayers of the City of Philadelphia, including those of us who cannot send our children there. I know of no other public school in the city that turns away children from its own catchment, but every child in the PAS catchment has at least the right, if not ability, to attend. There are private schools for people who do not want to attend schools with the general public. If every kid in the PAS catchment cannot attend PAS, then a lottery is the fairest way to decide who does (although I do think there should be a sibling preference, to not have one seems cruel and unfair).

    You and your classmates should realize that you are extremely fortunate and privileged to be able to attend PAS. It concerns me that you want to deny others that opportunity. The problem is that every school in the city should be at least as good as PAS. If they were, then the craziness of the crush to enroll at PAS would not be an issue. My hope would be that you and your classmates would be advocates to change the system to make an excellent education available to every kid – not just certain kids.

    Please recognize that I am not attacking you – I think it’s great that you posted here. I’m just worried about the lessons you are taking from this situation – a situation created not by you but by Penn, by the School District, by the elected officials of our state and country, by the adults in our society who are unwilling to do the things that need to be done to provide a decent, quality public education to every child. And I hope you can do better than that.

    Peace,
    Kimm

  70. Happy Curmudgeon Says:

    The “students” talking about how waiting in line versus a lottery makes it a better school just smacks of something I just cannot put my finger on it. Assuming those Elementary School graduates find themselves in college some day, they are going to be shocked.

  71. Abby Slakoff Says:

    Erin you are absolutely right. My intent was not to criticize Lea nor put the school in competition with Wilson. I’m not familiar with Lea as I am with Wilson. I was simply just going by the facts. I feel that over crowding Lea with another school can only make things worse for the all the students and staff. How are they supposed to work towards getting out of corrective action with all those additional students, without the means to do so? I do agree that we should work together as neighbors. If it was up to me, Penn would be dividing their financial help to all the neighborhood schools in the Penn area. Not just one. The children are innocent and all of them deserve a right to a good education. With that said, hopefully PAS will go to lottery. A child should not be deprived of their right to good education only because their parents are not able to camp out in the cold for multiple days on end.

  72. iteach Says:

    I have taught at 4 Philadelphia Schools. Why are we not putting our efforts to making Lea a blue ribbon school. We put a ton of money into failing schools. Can another University sponsor Lea? I work at a fabulous Philadelphia elementary school nearby. One of the reasons it is fabulous is because the parents bring their talents and help the school. Although it is a blue ribbon school the technology stinks. So we are not dumping a lot of money into fabulous school.

  73. Kim Woodbridge Says:

    @Suzanne – That you for this

    ““One Perfect School”. Let’s not carried away here. My daughter has been at PAS for the last 7 years. It’s a good school, by Phila public school standards. But it is a far cry from “Great”. If we were to compare it to the average suburban school, it would be fair to middling.”

    I have thought this myself many times. Yeah, it’s good for Philly but is it really as good as it’s made out to be?

  74. Cher Says:

    Its sad the lessons that the students are learning, or being twilight by example, the word “type ” or phrase “types of kids” was mentioned several times. I wonder what this student is trying to say. I hope not what it implies. Because after 8th grade there will be culture shock. Not everyone in the real world will be from your “catchment ” and after lasts evenings decision, the benifit of sacrafice from standing in the cold no longer exists. Too bad the parents or/and teachers are not teaching equality, fairness and compassion because all children are special and deserve a great education. You couldn’t pay me to send my kids to this school.

  75. Cher Says:

    That was supposed to say “lessons being taught” not twilight

  76. Maurice Says:

    Audrea I feel your pain. I too had that angst about 5 years ago when I was thinking about a school to place my precious young son in. I was at a conference and during a lull the people who had young children started talking about school choices, as is inevitable in that demographic. One of the people in this group spoke of a 1st grade teacher named Marie Clarke at Lea. To put a long story short, I took my son to Lea and was able to place him in Mrs. Clarke’s class and have been there ever since then and very happy about it. Being a modern, alert person, I check with due diligence any major, (or even minor), purchase or decision. I am on CNET for any electronics or software purchases immediately. I too checked the data for Lea and found test scores that did not meet my criteria but took the leap because of my trust in a colleague’s opinion of a educator. I thought then that if it didn’t turn out the way I imagined I could always transfer him to a “better” public, or go Private, Parochial, or Charter. I could not be more happy with my decision to enroll him in Lea. My son is now in 4th grade and doing incredible. He has already decided his career path, (Astrophysicist). I must reiterate that HE has chosen his career path, not I. He is in the Choir, we have a family membership to most museums in the city including, Museum of Art, Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, African American, Penn Museum, Adventure Aquarium, etc. We are planning to join the Jewish History Museum soon. When coming to Lea I found that the data did not match the level of the teaching staff. I did see that there were resources that should be there and which I demand in a school I want to send my son to, so I started working on bringing them to Lea. I joined the Garden Court Community Association’s Education Committee, who concentrates on 1st Grade because they feel that is the important time to get students excited about education. Our Committee has donated computers, digital projectors to the 1st grade classes, and hold a “Book Choosing” each year in which we have volunteers who read to the children books we purchase and they get to take them home to build their library. I have reached out to Penn, not in competition with Penn Alexander, but encouraging them support a great foundation I found at Lea. I have gotten 40 computers from both The Annenberg School, Wharton, and Drexel, and donated my IT skills to help the Technology Teacher install them in classrooms. I have advocated to the former Lead Academic Officer Penny Nixon to provide Mac Laptops for the 3rd to 5th grades, (6th, 7th, and 8th already utilize this technology), and we were given 75 which are being used today. I joined West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools who concentrates on Lea but is advocating for all West Philly Schools. My son uses the First in Math site on a regular basis and his 4th grade classroom is 4th in the district, another Lea class holds 5th place. Yes PAS holds the top 3 slops for that grade level, but many kids at Lea do not have computers at home, so I think this is great example of what Lea can do. His teacher holds the number 1 spot for 4th grade educators, and as a school we hold 2 of the top 5 spots as Educators. A Lea student also holds the top spot in the District. I have personally talked to Suntex, which was started by Robert Sun, (who is a Lea graduate), about having a direct relationship at Lea. According the the Suntex staff, Mr Sun has talked about his fond memories at Lea. The students, teachers, parents, and community came together and worked with a design team to Green the schoolyard, similar to what Greenfield has done, and we started our first phase with the support of West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools. I could go on and on about the many positive things at Lea, but you would never know unless you visit the school. The numbers are skewed because we have a English Second Language population equaling almost 1/4 of the school and have 25 countries and 25 languages represented, from Albania to Vietnam. This was important to me having my son in a multicultural atmosphere. Does Lea have everything that PAS has? No. What it does have is many great students, teachers, and a great deal of community support. I am part of a working group with Glenn Bryan VP of Community Relations at Penn to develop a closer relationship with the University, not in competition with PAS, but in support of Lea. We need choices in the community as you have so eloquently expressed, and Lea is now a choice, in my opinion. Take a visit and see for yourself.

  77. Student #2 Says:

    PAS used to be my second home, and shoot, even as a graduate from Penn ALexander, it’s STILL my home. It provides a safe environment, which is what we need in times like these where kids fear going to school because of shootings, and abductions. Before I went to PAS in fourth grade, I went to Lea. I was scared of my mind each day to go to school; the kids were monsters, carrying weapons and displaying very violent behavior. PAS kind of saved me from the hell that I was experiencing, and gave me the education that I was longing for while at Lea. A school that is unsafe, and doesn’t care about the welfare of their student body is probably the scariest thing for a parent. This is the reason why camping on Locust street for a number of days makes sense. I don’t get why people are baffled by the parents that want the best for their own children… Like @FindME said, they are completely willing to sacrifice a weekend at home so they can provide a better future for their children. To add, this new lottery policy is crazy… It’s so much less personable, and allows parents in University City to depend on the luck they may have with this lottery, rather than fighting for it in the January cold. Sure, it may provide other families a chance to get a Penn Alexander experience, yet it doesn’t allow the families that are willing to forgo certain things to let their kid grow up at PAS. By allowing the lottery procedure to continue is allowing your kids’ education to ride on luck.

  78. FindMe Says:

    @Cher I wasn’t meaning to imply anything racial if that’s what you thought. The majority of my graduating class was the “minority.” In fact, I think I could count the number of white kids on one hand. However, the current first grade class if I recall correctly is above 70 percent white. My dad was smart to point out last year after we walked past the line of parents, that he saw 3 black couples waiting out in the cold at around 9 where there were already 60 people in line.

  79. Ashamed Says:

    @All of the parents, pause for a second and instead of complaining, think of what you woud be doing for your children by camping out. Would you have rather your parents grown a pair and done the same, or sent you to a mediocre school

  80. ... Says:

    @Kim Woodbridge I beg to differ, I know a lot of kids what went to suburban schools that are now transfered into the Philadelphia School District and to be perfectly honest, where I am right now, I see them struggling with concepts I was able to pick up on because of the teachers. Wait until your child Graduates and see if you think the same

  81. Student #2 Says:

    @Cher, why wouldn’t you send your kids to PAS? If they didn’t teach compassion, or fairness, how come you have 3 alumni on this post saying how great PAS is, and how unfair the change of rules are? It’s unfair for you to say how bad the school is based on a small portion of how the school operates.

  82. FindMe Says:

    Alright, I see where everyone is coming from now. I guess you all know what’s best so I’m backing out. I already graduated, I don’t really need to be in this anymore. Good luck to all of you trying to decide what school to send your child to.

  83. Rodger Says:

    @FindMe I know exactly what you mean about everything that you’ve said so far, and I’m sorry to see you backing out of this because of the intimidation of these adults. You did a good job arguing your position, it’s the rest of these parents that are having trouble understanding. They’re just taking they’re anger out over the internet because they failed to find a better solution. Adults, you should be ashamed of the way you’ve attacked these 3 students. An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind

  84. FindMe Says:

    @Rodger, thank-you, but I didn’t back out because of their intimidation, I backed out because I realized they were only reading my comments to contradict them and not to think about what it is I was trying to say, and who it was saying it.

  85. Student Says:

    Eh, I’m 19 so I’m not really sure if that was true, but I’m not saying this is the way it should be, I’m just saying it’s the strongest solution. Surely this shouldn’t be the ways things are supposed to be but things rarely are.

  86. Amara Says:

    Audrea Hedman and Abby Slakoff, may I offer some suggestions as an observer of the district? I was at many of the SRC meetings last year where two small schools, Stanton (K-8, Graduate Hospital) and Sheppard (K-4, Kensington), slowly and incrementally won their fights against closure. They were able to do so by making their cases largely in positive terms on their school’s individual merits, not by speaking ill of the proposed merger schools (Arthur and DeBurgos). This is important as district officials had to work with the Stanton and Sheppard communities and might have been reluctant to do so if they felt Stanton and Sheppard were actively creating tension and division with the proposed merger school communities. The district officials would have had to consider what might result if the schools still had to merge in the end.

    The challenge for the Wilson community is this year’s compressed timeline and the sheer number of schools proposed for closure. To make keeping Wilson palatable to the district financially, the Wilson community is going to have to come up with a plan to increase the enrollment at Wilson. From the numbers, it looks like the district would need to see enrollment roughly double very quickly. Stanton proposed to increase their class sizes slightly (previously they had more what PAS has currently), adding an autistic support class and developing a plan to create an expansion wing. Sheppard, which was already packed to the gills in its small building, came up with a strategic partnership with Home Depot to help offset some of the district’s costs of maintaining the historic building. With the proposed closures and mergers, the district is expecting many Early Childhood Education classes formerly held in district schools to be shifted to outside providers. Could Wilson potentially take on additional Head Start classes lost in the closure of other district schools instead? Wilson has the added complication that Shaw, the middle school it technically feeds into, is also proposed for closure. If Wilson is not feasible as a K-8, there will need to be some kind of plan for its students beyond its last grade and a justification for the assignment should Shaw close.

    And as you keep bringing up the subject of test scores and that the community’s goal should be to raise them, I thought you should both be aware of how damaging the district’s myopic focus on test scores has been in recent years. Thankfully, Superintendent Hite seems to understand that improving test scores should be the byproduct of a well-rounded education, not the goal to the near exclusion of all else. I said as much at the first SRC meeting he attended in September before his employment began and when no other district official was willing to respond, he stood up and agreed thoughtfully. However, you should know his predecessor inflicted Lea and Wilson with an awful mandatory scripted curriculum finally abandoned this year, temporarily suspended Science and Social Studies instruction to focus on PSSA eligible material, implemented “drill and kill” test prep and rewarded principals whose schools experienced statistically improbable score increases while denigrating and firing principals whose schools made more modest gains. The district should not be encouraged to revert to that model of instruction and treatment of school communities. The goal for all of our neighborhood schools should be that they have all the resources and support they need to educate the unique student populations they serve.

  87. cg Says:

    @FindMe, @Ashamed, @Student #2, and whoever else is defending first-come first-serve on the basis of it somehow favoring parents who are willing to put more effort into the education of their children:

    I am a parent who waited out in line for my son last year, in the freezing rain, for 24 hours. And there were about 20 families behind me who did the same. But none of our kids got in because there were not enough spots available. In other words, we were all parents who felt so strongly about our kids’ education that we waited outside for 24 hours, and *still* did not get a spot. So I take serious issue with the suggestion that the process favors parents who are willing to put more effort into the education of the their children. Not so.

    I’d also like to point out that, from what I understand, this phenomenon of parents waiting in line for long periods of time is relatively new, because the school has only been turning away students for the past few years. So it’s not even clear to me why you guys are defending the policy. How would a lottery have changed your experience of PAS at all if everyone who registered got in to begin with?

  88. West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools Says:

    The board of the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS) would like to make neighborhood parents aware that the School District of Philadelphia is having a district-wide Kindergarten Open House on Tuesday, March 5th. Times are determined by individual schools and some schools may choose an alternate date. As it has done in the past, WPCNS plans to compile and distribute a West Philly Kindergarten Open House list in February. Lea Elementary, our organization’s current focus, has scheduled its Kindergarten Open House for Tuesday March 5th from 9:15-10:15 a.m (4700 Locust Street). There are currently three kindergarten classes at Lea with about 20 students in each. Principal Bell-Chiles is interested in adding a fourth kindergarten class in 2013-2014 if there is enrollment demand for it and the district allows.

    To learn more about our organization, current initiatives and how to get involved, please visit our website.

  89. LW Says:

    Thanks for posting that info!

  90. Audrea Says:

    My daughter was kindergarten age for the 2012/2013 school year and we are in the PAS catchment even after standing the 24 hours outside in January because we were number 70 I knew we may not get in so I went to Lea in march during their open house before I knew about their failing test scores but FYI because I don’t live in their catchment they wouldn’t even accept my daughters application for kindergarten and we only live 4 blocks from the school. Now I know it was a blessing since Alexander Wilson has turned out to be such a great school just want to give parents a heads up that Lea didn’t even let us put an application in since we weren’t their “catchment”.

  91. cg Says:

    Audrea, I was in the PAS line too for 24 hours and got denied. I had no problem getting my kid into Lea. I and other parents have had great experiences at Lea so far. Test scores are a terrible way to measure school quality because they do not account for many other factors in the neighborhood.

    Perhaps we can both agree that there are viable alternatives to PAS in this area, and as others have pointed out, it would be great if the neighborhood focused on making those schools even better. I’m sorry that Wilson is slated to be closed down, I hope that the community can convince the district to keep it open.

  92. Amara Says:

    Audrea, as I think I explained to you at the March Open House at Lea, the issue is that PAS is technically your catchment school. Lea could not officially offer your daughter admission to kindergarten until after it completed registration for its own in-catchment students. It is great that you’re happy at Wilson.

    There is the added side-issue of the district’s official reassignment process which has an even longer timeline:

    http://leehuang.blogspot.com/2012/09/registering-my-son-for-kindergarten-in.html

  93. cg Says:

    Amara (and everyone)- I faced the same issue, but after talking directly with admin at Lea they said I could come in directly and simply register my kid there. That was late August. I don’t know about doing it earlier than that, but regardless I think it’s always worth contacting the school directly.

  94. Audrea Says:

    Amara, I know that is what you said but it’s quite different when you actually go up to Lea. Actually they told me I wasn’t even allowed to put an application in at all since I wasn’t catchment. It’s ok I’m not mad about it jut misinformation that future parents of kindergartners need to know.

  95. Beth Says:

    Audrea,
    I am sorry that you had a negative experience and even more sorry that Wilson is proposed for closure, given your positive experience there. I have also come to understand that the test scores at Lea are not at all reflective of the learning that takes place there. I have met some impressive recent graduates of Lea attending the magnet school where I work. I have also been fortunate to meet wonderful teachers, parents and students at Lea.

    Amara and WPCNS has always been very clear that if you haven’t put in for a voluntary transfer (deadline passed at this point), are not in the Lea catchment, and have not gotten into PAS, that the district’s official policy is to assign your child to the nearest school that has a spot. However, if you put in a request for Lea with the district prior to reassignment, and speak with Principal Bell-Chiles, your request will usually be granted. This was the information provided, and as you can see from cg’s comments, his experience was that this worked out for his family. I hope this clears up any confusion. I would also say that with the many changes going on in the district, it is difficult to say with any certainty how things will be handled from one year to the next.






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