This is Pre-K?
It seems absolutely absurd that parents would “camp out” in order to secure a volunteer pre-kindergarten spot for their child. But it happens — some feel it is necessary even though it can be downright dangerous. In fact, this year we have heard reports of police presence proactively being involved to ensure everyone’s safety. A prudent choice, but how did we end up with VPK registrations that look more like Black Friday events than school enrollment? Lines upon lines of parents toting lawn chairs, blankets, reading books and iPhones while nursing thermoses full of coffee and waiting for the doors to open.
The spots are limited
We have to start with the reality that you are not, in fact, guaranteed a spot at your neighborhood school’s VPK program. Unlike kindergarten, the voluntary prekindergarten program is classified as a “choice” program. This means that just because you are zoned for a school doesn’t mean you have a spot. In addition to being a “choice” program, these coveted spots are limited. Every year, varying estimates on just how many seats are available begin to slip out into the ether and the outlook is often grim. Some parents report hearing that there may be less than 10 seats available at their school of choice. YIKES!
The strategizing begins
Parents fill out all of their VPK registrations forms, gather needed documents and contact the schools to learn the proper procedures and rope drop times. I have heard of parents taking time off work, couples taking turn in lines, setting alarms for midnight and more just to give their child the best shot at attending their VPK program of choice. But for some this effort simply lands them on the waiting list.
Why are these neighborhood schools’ slots coveted by so many families? The reasons are many and reflect the diverse needs of our communities. For some, it is as simple as they love the reputation and community that the school provides. Sometimes it’s practical — they have students who already attend that school or the location is perfect for their commute. Still others are interested in the specific program a school offers. For many parents, the full-day programs these schools offer meet their family’s needs better than half-day options offered by most private and charter programs.
Whatever the reason, we salute all of you who braved the lines, fussed with forms and did what you could to get a spot at your chosen school.
Did you register your student for VPK? What was your experience?