Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Registering for Providence Public Schools, Kindergarten and First grades, 2011-2012

This rundown of what you need to know to register your kids for kindergarten or first grade in the Providence Public Schools appeared on KidoInfo.com last week and I am delighted to share it here.

In what is now an annual tradition, Kidoinfo offers tips and guidelines to help you have a successful experience as you register your child for the Providence Public Schools as a kindergartner or first grader. This year, I’ll be among those signing my child up for a kindergarten spot as Henry, my youngest son, will be entering kindergarten at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. How my little baby is now old enough for kindergarten will be a mystery best explored in another article, so let’s dive into registration-related matters.

Information provided here is based in part of Kira Greene’s expertise, which was part of Kidoinfo’s 2010 Providence Public Schools registration overview. Kira, whose kids attend Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point, has spent many hours helping families navigate the Providence Public Schools District (PPSD) registration system.

For the 2011-12 school year, enrollment for PPSD kindergarten begins on Monday, February 28, and runs through Saturday, April 9. Grade 1 registration for students who are new to the Providence public schools will happen on the same dates. Consult the kindergarten and first grade registration calendar for specific information about when to register your child. For students who are new to the district enrolling in second through twelfth grades, registration begins May 5, and information is available here. The processes to choose middle schools and high schools run separately.

Registration must happen in person at the Student Registration and Placement Center, 325 Ocean Street in Providence (Map it). If you’ve been there before, it’s in the same location, though with a different street address. Families are requested to register children on certain days according to the first letter of the child’s last name, and make-up days are available during the last week of the registration period. To be eligible for kindergarten, your child must have been born on or before September 1, 2006, and reside in Providence.

Here is a list of documents you need to bring:
- Birth certificate, passport, green card, or I-94 card
- Child’s immunization records from pediatrician’s office
- Proof of physical exam, vision screening, and lead test results
- Proof of Providence residency (utility bill or lease/rental agreement)
- For special education students only: bring your child’s current Individualized Education Program (IEP) if s/he has one.
- If a language other than English is the primary language at home, your child will need a language assessment, available by appointment.
- Families of first grade students also need to supply proof of registration in an accredited kindergarten program.

Note that you don’t need to bring your child! You certainly can bring him or her, but it is not required. As you head into this process, please know the guidelines and details as described in PPSD’s Student Assignment Policy. Here are some important considerations specifically related to how and whether to choose a neighborhood school:

Providence public elementary schools are defined as neighborhood schools (this doesn’t apply to charter schools, which have enrollment processes that are separate from the public schools). The school assignment policy provides families with a choice of schools while encouraging neighborhood school enrollment. This means that you need to know which schools PPSD defines as neighborhood schools for your child’s primary address, and that you need to be prepared with school choices at the time of your child’s registration. All children in the city of Providence have two neighborhood schools, which are the two closest schools (as the crow flies) to where your child lives. Unfortunately, there is no map online to illustrate this for you. You must call the Student Registration and Assignment Center  456-9297), provide your address, and ask for your “two neighborhood schools.” When you request this information, and any other information, make a note of the date and the name of the person with whom you spoke, along with the information you received, so you can have good records should anything go awry. If registration is like last year, you will receive a sheet with four choices. It is important that you write your first choice on the first line!

For those families who are registering students at a non-neighborhood school (that is, not one of your two neighborhood schools), here’s some advice based on Kira’s experience. Because the Student Assignment Policy states that “80 percent of the general education seats in each school will be reserved for students who listed the school as a first choice and live in the neighborhood,” it appears that if you list a non-neighborhood school as your first choice, you are not automatically guaranteed your neighborhood school as your second choice. Therefore, if your first choice is a “non-neighborhood” school (for your address) that is popular and difficult to get into, you may not get into your neighborhood school of choice if it is listed as your second choice. Therefore, unless you are dead-set on choosing only one school, your first choice may need to be your top preference of those schools that are likely to have space for your child. Remember, this does not apply to families for whom their first choice is also their neighborhood school.

Another implication of the assignment policy’s stipulation that 80 percent of the seats are reserved for neighborhood children is that most of these seats are often allocated in kindergarten, so if your heart is set on a particular school, kindergarten may the best time to take advantage of that policy. Parents who register their children for first grade may not get their choice of schools because seats at neighborhood schools are limited.

Here are a few more tips to make sure that the registration process results in a good outcome: Registering your child in the Providence Public Schools can feel bureaucratic and cumbersome. Remember that your experience at registration will have nothing to do with your experience at your elementary school of choice. Please keep this in mind as you go through this process, and also remember that PPSD processes registrations for thousands of kids each year. Therefore, we recommend that you know the registration policies and advocate for your child! Kids can fall through the cracks and mistakes happen.

After you have registered your child, if you are concerned or just need confirmation, call the Student Registration and Information Center and ask them to repeat the schools you have applied to and what category (neighborhood/non-neighborhood) your child falls within. At the end of the registration period, you can even ask, for example, how many neighborhood children applied to the school for which you registered your child. If this number is below 80 percent, you know you will get a spot.

For many families, the process goes smoothly, but occasionally mistakes happen, and again, we emphasize the need to advocate for your child and to ask for help if you need it. If you are having any difficulty or are worried that the practices do not meet up with the policies, call the principal of the school at which you wish to register your child and reach out to other parents whom you may know at that school or the leaders of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization (if there is one) for advice.

Student Registration and Information Center
Telephone: 401-456-9297
Fax: 401-278-0553
Main web page: http://www.providenceschools.org/inside-ppsd/registration.aspx
Contact information (including information for speakers of languages other than English): http://www.providenceschools.org/inside-ppsd/registration/contact-us.aspx
Address: 325 Ocean Avenue (formerly 650 Prairie Avenue) in Providence, behind the BJ Clanton School Complex/Woods and Young Schools.

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