Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Sign-up still means get up

Magnet schools' enrollment prompts wee-hour lineups

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Yes, parents waited outside schools for hours Tuesday to enroll their children in Cincinnati Public Schools' specialty programs.

[photo] Family members wait in the auditorium of the High School for Teaching and Technology in University Heights to sign up their children on Tuesday for the Cincinnati Public Schools' magnet program.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        But much of the former frenzy surrounding sign-up for the district's magnet schools is history now that sign-up occurs at the desired schools, rather than at one central location.

        General sign-up for the 12 magnet programs at 28 school sites began Tuesday and will continue until the schools' 13,000 openings are filled.

        At Winton Montessori School in Winton Place, five families were waiting outside before 8 a.m. to enroll their children, Principal Rita Swegman said.

        Magnet school programs such as those at Winton Montessori attract nearly a third of CPS' 42,000 students.

        In addition to the Montessori schools, which are diversity-driven and incorporate hands-on lessons, other magnet programs include studies built around foreign languages and the arts.

        This is the second year the district opted to have parents sign up at the schools.

    For information about Cincinnati Public Schools' magnet programs, call the CPS FACTline, 475-7099.
        But parents still lined up outside magnet schools to ensure their children a sought-after spot.

        About 20 families were waiting inside Sands Montessori in the West End when secretary Ima Ellis arrived about 7:15 a.m. Sign-up began at 8 a.m.

        Sands also had a second sign-up location at Eastern Hills school in Mount Washington because the Sands program is relocating there next school year.

        Hyde Park resident Debbie Whiteside said she left her house at 6:30 a.m. and was ninth in line at Sands. Her mother stayed at her house overnight so she could watch Ms. Whiteside's daughters. The man who was first in line told Ms. Whiteside he had been there since 8 p.m. the night before.

        Ms. Whiteside said she was nervous and heard all sorts of rumors about limited openings.

        “It was worse than signing up for colleges because you're signing up for your kids, not you,” she said.

        She was thrilled to receive an acceptance letter for her daughter Lily, 4, but she'll have to wait to learn if Ella, 2, is accepted to Sands because the verification for preschool magnet program enrollment comes in several weeks.

        Under the old system, parents learned of the secret sign-up location by radio on a Saturday morning. District officials created a new system last year to limit the camp-outs in front of the district education center, where sign-up for all magnet schools was held.

        They also hoped to prevent parents and other family members from staking out locations throughout the city before dawn.

        For information on sign-up times and openings at specific schools, parents should call the school directly.


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