[Newark, NJ – November 24, 2015] – Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf and Newark Public Schools (NPS) staff members announced improvements that will be made to the 2015-16 Newark Enrollment Process for the 2016–17 school year at the Newark School Board’s monthly meeting Monday night. The district has been collecting feedback over the last year from various stakeholders including families, community leaders, and other school community members about how to improve the open enrollment process in a way that gives all of Newark’s children access to an excellent education.
“It is imperative that we give every child in Newark access to the best education possible, regardless of where they live,” said Superintendent Chris Cerf. “Over the last year, we have gone to great lengths to gather feedback from the community about how we can improve the enrollment system so it works for all of our families. We are incorporating that feedback in a way that will simplify the application process for families, giving them more time to fill out the application and more opportunities to learn about the great schools in Newark that are available to them, among other improvements.”
Feedback from the community in prior years indicated that there was inadequate communication and community engagement, initial execution challenges, and policies shortfalls that did not allow for families to prioritize keeping siblings together.
In response to feedback, the district will be implementing policy changes and process improvements in preparation for the opening of this year’s enrollment process. NPS outlined some of the following modifications to Newark’s enrollment process:
- Extending the application window to 12 weeks, giving parents more time to research their school choices;
- Improving sibling matching to ensure siblings are matched whenever possible;
- Revising geographic preferences to ensure more students have access to a school in their neighborhood by increasing the percentage of seats prioritized for neighborhood students;
- Creating smaller geographic preference areas so that if desired, Kindergartners will not have to travel outside of their community to attend school; and
- Providing additional resources to ensure families have more information and time to understand their education options.
In addition, the district will be launching a Transparency Committee in partnership with the School Board to oversee and audit match outcomes and to ensure that NPS policies are strictly followed.
Families will have an additional four weeks to complete their enrollment application this year, giving families more time to reflect on the things that matter most to them in choosing a school for their child. The longer application window opens the week of December 7th and will remain open through February 29th. The district will also be simplifying the application process by reducing the process from two windows to one, eliminating pressure parents may have felt to apply earlier to secure a seat.
“We believe that the improvements we are making to the enrollment process will have a positive impact on Newark’s families,” said Juceyka Figueroa, Executive Director of the Family Support Center, “Simplifying the application process and providing additional resources will allow parents to make more informed decisions and confident choices about their children’s education and future.”
In addition to the new timeline, the district shared details about additional resources and support services that will help families make more informed decisions about their children’s education. Community engagement specialists will be available at each school and informational sessions will be hosted at the Family Support Center to help navigate families through the application process. The district will also be releasing new guidebooks that will offer more detailed school information than in previous years, along with school videos that will give parents a better sense of the unique learning environment in each school.
“We have used information collected in surveys and focus groups to try to figure out how we can best respond to the concerns of our families,” remarked Edward Hui, the district’s Chief Strategy Officer. “We believe the changes we have made to our policies, and the improvements we’ve made to the enrollment process will support them in making the best choices for their children. We will continue to listen and learn from their experiences, and work to continuously to make the process better for our families each year.”
The district will continue to work with families and community members to better understand how they can support them throughout the enrollment window. NPS will be announcing details about upcoming informational sessions to families in the coming weeks. Families can continue to visit www.newarkenrolls.org for important updates and information about the process and to access the application beginning December 7th.