Since the center re-opened on July 10, the district has seen a substantial drop in families requesting support and a smoother process[NEWARK, NJ — July 28, 2017] — Newark Public Schools (NPS) opened the Family Support Center on July 10 to assist families who are still looking for a school placement for the 2017-18 school year. The district reports a significant drop in those visiting the family support center during the opening weeks this year, as well as a smoother process and shorter wait times for those families who visit for enrollment support.
District officials attribute the decline in numbers to some important process improvements made this year that have allowed families to find the school of their choice earlier in the process and to enroll directly from their home or chosen school. Last year in the first two weeks the center was open, over 1,856 individuals visited the site for support, while this year just 883 have visited- 48 percent of whom are new to the district.
“We are committed to providing high quality customer service to make sure parents have everything they need to identify and enroll in the school that is the best fit for their child,” said Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf of NPS. “In order to do this, we’ve gathered feedback from school board and community members, and worked to continuously improve the system to meet the needs of parents and families. Our hope is that this improvement allows us to collectively focus on what’s most important during this time– that all children in Newark are prepared and ready to learn on their first day of school.”
In collaboration with the Newark School Board and community members, NPS made changes to key enrollment processes this year to continue to improve the experience for families. First, due to better data and systems in the enrollment process this year, the district was able to eliminate a cumbersome appeals process. This allowed NPS to re-open the enrollment window on May 8th for all families who missed the application period, which is earlier than ever before (last year we opened enrollment in mid-July).
In parallel to this, the district created the Family Enrollment Portal, an online portal that allows families to directly select their school online or to change their school if their match no longer meets their needs. To date, 700 families have used the Family Enrollment Portal to choose a new school for their child or to change their school placement, and others have added their children to waitlists for magnet high schools, charter schools and Pre-Kindergarten in district schools.
“We welcome all families to utilize the Family Support Center whenever they have questions or need support,” noted Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon, Executive Director of Enrollment at NPS. “However, we also received feedback that families wanted to be able to have their needs met at home or a nearby school. The drop in the number of families visiting the Family Support Center so far this summer is a strong indication that the online resources and expanded enrollment timeline we provided this year are helping Newark families find the school of their choice sooner and more conveniently,” Ramos-Solomon continued. “This not only makes life easier for those families, but also allows district officials to cut down wait times for parents on-site, and spend more time supporting those who have unique needs or circumstances that need our attention the most.”
In addition to making these changes to the enrollment process, the district changed the enrollment policy to further prioritize neighborhood preferences to ensure that those who want to attend a school near their home can do so. This policy change led to improved outcomes for families during the application and match period, which also helps cut down on the number of appeals and the amount of follow-up support needed. Information about the results of the match process can be viewed here.
“The Family Support Center (FSC) has done a great job in helping me match my kids to schools. I want what is best for my kids and I found that through visiting the FSC,” said Ms. Clara Feaster. She continued, “After speaking with Ms. Carrion at the FSC and talking with the staff at West Side High School, my son became excited about West Side. I really appreciate what they are doing at West Side to help students, I know it will be a good place for my son.” Ms. Feaster’s son Amari is playing football at West Side High School. His photograph also appears on the outside of the building as part of a mural arts project that was installed this spring.
The Family Support Center is open in July Monday through Thursday from 9am – 3pm, and will host extended hours in August closer to the start of the school year. In addition, to better serve working families, the Family Support Center is open one Saturday a month, from 9am – 12pm. For more information about the Family Support Center’s hours of operation and the timeline visit the Newark Public Schools website at http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/.