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Registering for Providence Public Schools: 2008-09 School Year

Martin Luther KingIf you have kids, then learning about schools–deciding which one is right for your children and your family, and getting them registered and ready–can be an involved process (and may even make you long for the diaper days). Our new contributor, Jill Davidson, will share her knowledge about schools (both local and national) along with her experience as a mom of three sons. Elias is a second grader at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Providence. His brother Leo will join him as a kindergartener at MLK in the fall, and their younger brother Henry will join them at school in a few years.

I recently had the parental version of the exam anxiety dream: I dreamed that I’d forgotten to enroll my son for kindergarten! I woke up, checked the Providence Public Schools kindergarten registration calendar, and realized with relief that I hadn’t. So you can avoid having similar nightmares, here’s some essential information about getting your elementary school age children enrolled in the Providence Public Schools.

Enrollment for Providence Public School kindergarten for the 2008-09 school year begins on Wednesday, February 27, and runs through Saturday, April 12. Grade 1 registration, for students who are new to the Providence Public School district, begins on Monday, March 3, and runs through Friday, March 28.

Are you ready? Yes? Probably? Not sure? Read on for the basics of what you need to know to get your children registered, and plan to spend time reviewing the registration information on the Providence Public Schools’ website.

First of all, to be eligible for kindergarten, your child must have been born on or before September 1, 2003, and your child must reside in Providence.

All kindergarteners and first graders have at least two neighborhood schools from which to choose. Elementary neighborhood schools are defined as those within a mile of a student’s primary residence.

Providence public elementary schools are defined as neighborhood schools (this doesn’t apply to charter schools, which have enrollment processes that are separate from the public schools). The school assignment policy (SAP) states that 75% of the general education seats in each school will be reserved for students who listed the school as a first choice and live in the neighborhood. 20% of the general education seats in each school will be reserved for students who picked the school as their first choice and do not live in the neighborhood. 5% of the general education seats will be reserved for students who listed the school as a second choice and live in the neighborhood. PPSD has provided additional information about its school assignment policy in this helpful Frequently Asked Questions page .

Got that? It means that you need to know what schools the Providence Public Schools Department (PPSD) defines as neighborhood schools for your child’s primary address, and that you need to be prepared with first and second choices at the time of your child’s registration. If you’re not sure which schools are considered your child’s neighborhood schools, contact the PPSD Student Registration and Assignment Center.

If you have not yet visited neighborhood or other elementary schools, or you want to take another look, Elementary Open Schools Week runs from Monday, March 3, through Friday, March 7, 2008. During this week, Providence public elementary schools welcome families to tour schools, speak with the principal, and visit classrooms. Schools will be open for visits from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5. Kindergarten registration materials will be available to parents at all schools. It is helpful to tour the schools you are considering ahead of time: you can meet the teachers and the principal, see the school in action, and get a sense of how the school feels to you.

Remember that the kindergarten registration period runs from February 27 through April 12. That means that registration starts before Open Schools Week, which is unfortunate to some extent, since registration proceeds according to the first letter of the child’s last name, starting with A. The first few letters of the alphabet have a registration period that falls before the Open Schools Week. However, there are make-up days that occur after Open Schools Week, so if you need that week to visit schools, be sure to take the time you need and register on a day that’s reserved for your child’s last name afterward.

The registration calendar has multiple days for each letter, so find a date that works for you.

Here is a list of documents you need to bring:

– Birth certificate, passport, green card, or I-94 card
– Child’s immunization records from pediatrician’s office
– Proof of physical exam, vision screening, and lead test results
– Proof of Providence residency (utility bill or lease/rental agreement)
– For special education students only: Bring your child’s current Individualized Education Program (IEP) if s/he has one

Note that you don’t need to bring your child! You certainly can bring him or her, but it is not required.

The Parent Information and Student Registration Center is located at 650 Prairie Avenue in Providence. The center is difficult to find, even with Google maps or Mapquest (trust me on this — I was lost for twenty minutes when I went there to register my oldest son in 2005). Use the directions below or call the center (456-1702) for directions.

If you are heading to the center from the north:
– Take 95 South, Exit 18 – Thurbers Avenue
– Bear right towards Eddy Street
– Take left onto Eddy Street (Burger King and Shell station are on the corner)
– Take third right onto Pavilion Street
– Take right onto Ocean Street
– Take first left into the center

The sign says Parent Information and Registration Department, and the building is straight ahead (a school is attached to the right side).

Okay, we’re almost done! A few more items to note:

For students entering first grade in September 2008–that is, for students who are new to the district, which means those who aren’t enrolled in kindergarten already–registration runs from March 3 to March 28, 2008. You can enroll your child on any date during that period; registration for incoming first graders is not sorted by last names.

For students who are new to the district enrolling in second through fifth grades, registration begins May 5, 2008. You can call the Parent Information and Student Registration Center at 456-1702 for specific information on how to enroll students who are in grades higher than kindergarten or first grade.

In future posts, I’ll provide more information about school registration processes, including the as-yet-to-be-announced dates and process for the elementary school lottery, which will take place to determine neighborhood and non-neighborhood seats for those schools that have been selected beyond their capacities.

Key Information:

Parent Information and Student Registration Center
650 Prairie Avenue
Providence, RI 02905
Phone: 401-456-1702

Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the Saturdays it is scheduled to be open (again, consult the registration calendar for those specific dates).
Registration calendar

Contact information, including information for speakers of languages other than English, information about medical record requirements, and other special requests.

Mom to Elias, Leo, and Henry, Jill Davidson is the president of the MLK Parent-Teacher Organization, serves on the Providence Public Schools’ Nathan Bishop Middle School Steering Committee, and works on education issues nationally as the publications director of the
Coalition of Essential Schools.

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  • Thanks Jill,

    A few other tips.
    1) Make sure that you see the nurse. This sometimes takes a while.
    2) If you’re trying to “game” the system, I’m told that placing the school of your choice as BOTH the first and second choices will help.
    3) If you already have a child in a school, tell them this up front. Your next child will get right into the same school.
    4) Don’t stress. It’s a stressful process, but keep breathing
    – Mark