GARFIELD PARK — There are just days until the Friday enrollment deadline for Chicago Public Schools parents working to select the right school to fit their students.
The process can be confusing, so it’s understandable why many parents may have waited until the final days to apply.
Here are tips from CPS parents and the Kids First staff to make enrollment season as smooth as possible:
It’s Not All About School Level
Many parents may want their kids to go to a Level 1-plus school, the highest-performing schools in the district. But Kids First Engagement Associate Ciera Smith said it’s not all about school’s rating level.
Parents should also take into account their child’s interests and the specific program and curriculum options different schools might have, Smith said. For example, Spencer Technology Academy, 214 N. Lavergne Ave., is a Level 2 school in Austin. But it is also a magnet cluster school with specialized facilities and programming dedicated toward tech and STEM.
Check Out Schools Outside The Neighborhood
Smith said parents should be willing to send their kids to a school outside the neighborhood if it meets their specific needs. Sometimes, the right fit might be in the next community over, so Smith encouraged parents to empower themselves with information on program offerings at various schools, even if they aren’t a neighborhood school.
“All parents want the best for their kids and they want their kids to go to the highest-performing schools. But oftentimes, that requires them to leave the neighborhood,” Smith said.
The GoCPS Website Is Good, But Nothing Beats An In-Person Visit
CPS created the GoCPS site so parents would have a one stop where parents could explore potential schools. But parent Tonya Reed said the website can provide an incomplete picture of the offerings of each school.
When Reed was applying for her son, she got a much better idea of the type of learning environment at each school by stopping by in person.
“I advise, just go to the school. I try to find out what I need to know in person,” Reed said.
Apply To Many Schools Now, And Choose The Right One Later
Students entering high school are allowed to apply to up to 20 choice programs and up to six selective enrollment schools. High schoolers must rank their choices and are offered a place at the highest-ranked school they are qualified for that has a seat available for them.
For high school students, it’s very important to rank which school the student wants to go to the most.
Elementary students can also apply to 20 choice programs and six selective enrollment schools, but parents applying for their kids don’t have to rank their choice options. Students receive an offer for all the choice schools they are qualified for and can get a single offer from their top-ranked selective enrollment school.
Since offers don’t need to be accepted or declined until the spring, Sean Schindl, Kid First community engagement director, recommends parents of elementary school students apply to as many schools as possible, even if they haven’t had the chance to visit yet.
“There’s nothing to stop you from applying to 20 non-selective schools and then go visit them all between now and March or April. And you can decide which ones you most actually want to go to,” Schindl said.
So parents that may be crunched for time don’t need to worry about making the perfect choice right now. What’s more important is putting all the right options on the table so they can choose later.
Parents looking for additional help getting informed or going through the application process should reach out to Kids First Chicago at 312-853-1212.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.