Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

The last time I wrote for Kidoinfo about enrolling children in the Providence Public Schools, I was going through the experience myself with my second son. Since our family hasn’t been through the process for a while, I consulted Kira Greene, a parent whose kids attend Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point, for tips and advice. Kira has spent many hours helping families navigate the system of Providence Public Schools registration, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned with you. Please note that registration for Providence Charter Schools is handled separately (and ends on March 22). Please add your additional tips, experiences, and questions in the comments section!

Enrollment for Providence Public School kindergarten for the 2010-11 school year begins on Monday, February 22, and runs through Saturday, April 1. Grade 1 registration for students who are new to the Providence Public School district begins on Monday, March 1, and runs through Saturday, April 1. Consult the kindergarten and first grade registration calendars for specific information about when to register your child. For students who are new to the district enrolling in second through twelfth grades, registration begins May 5, and information is available here. The processes to choose middle schools and high schools run separately.

Registration must happen in person at the Student Registration and Placement Center, 325 Ocean Street in Providence (Map it). If you’ve been there before, it’s in the same location, though with a different street address. Families are requested to register children on certain days according to the first letter of the child’s last name, and make-up days are available during the last week of the registration period. To be eligible for kindergarten, your child must have been born on or before September 1, 2005, and reside in Providence.

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.
- If a language other than English is the primary language at home, your child will need a language assessment, available by appointment.
- Families of first grade students also need to supply proof of registration in an accredited kindergarten program.

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

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). Generally speaking, the school assignment policy provides families with a choice of schools while encouraging neighborhood school enrollment. This means that you need to know which 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 school choices at the time of your child’s registration. All children in the city of Providence have two neighborhood schools, which are the two closest schools (as the crow flies) to where your child lives. Unfortunately, there is no map online to illustrate this for you. You must call the Student Registration and Assignment Center (456-9297), give your address, and ask for your “two neighborhood schools.” When you request this information, and any other information, make a note of the date and the name of the person with whom you spoke, along with the information you received, so you can have good records should anything go awry. If registration is like last year, you will receive a sheet with four choices. It is important that you write your first choice on the first line!

In general, as you head into this process, please know the guidelines. Read the Student Assignment Policy for details.

For those families who are registering students at a non-neighborhood school (that is, not one of your two neighborhood schools), here’s some advice based on Kira’s experience. Because the Student Assignment Policy states that “80 percent 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,” it appears that if you list a non-neighborhood school as your first choice, you are not automatically guaranteed your neighborhood school as your second choice. Therefore, if your first choice is a “non-neighborhood” school (for your address) that is popular and difficult to get into, you may not get into your neighborhood school of choice if it is listed as your second choice. The Student Registration and Placement Center’s staff members are addressing this issue, but it will most likely not be resolved this year. Therefore, unless you are dead-set on choosing only one school, your first choice may need to be your top preference of those schools that are likely to have space for your child. Remember, this does not apply to families for whom their first choice is also their neighborhood school.

Another implication of the assignment policy’s stipulation that 80 percent of the seats are reserved for neighborhood children is that most of these seats are often allocated in kindergarten, so if your heart is set on a particular school, kindergarten may the best time to take advantage of that policy. Parents who register their children for first grade may not get their choice of schools because seats at neighborhood schools are limited.

We know that this has been a lot to process; we’re almost done! Here are a few more tips to make sure that the registration process results in a good outcome.

Registering your child in the Providence Public Schools can feel bureaucratic and cumbersome. Remember that your experience at registration will have nothing to do with your experience at your elementary school of choice. Please keep this in mind as you go through this process, and also remember that the Providence Public Schools are processing thousands of kids each year. Therefore, we recommend that you know the registration policies and advocate for your child! Kids can fall through the cracks and mistakes happen.

After you have registered your child, if you are concerned or just need confirmation, call the Student Registration and Information Center and ask them to repeat the schools you have applied to and what category (neighborhood/non-neighborhood) your child falls within. At the end of the registration period, you can even ask, for example, how many neighborhood children applied to the school for which you registered your child. If this number is below 80 percent, you know you will get a spot.

For many families, the process goes smoothly, but occasionally mistakes happen, and again, we emphasize the need to advocate for your child and to ask for help if you need it. If you are having any difficulty or are worried that the practices do not meet up with the policies, call the principal of the school at which you wish to register your child and reach out to other parents whom you may know at that school or the leaders of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization (if there is one) for advice.

We will follow this post with advice about elementary school lotteries, waiting lists, and suggestions for parents who are weighing options between public and independent/charter schools or who are transferring into the public schools from elsewhere.

Student Registration and Information Center
Telephone: 401-456-9297
Fax: 401-278-0553
Main web page:
Contact information (including information for speakers of languages other than English):
Address: 325 Ocean Avenue (formerly 650 Prairie Avenue) in Providence, behind the BJ Clanton School Complex/Woods and Young Schools.

Mom to Elias, Leo, and Henry, Jill Davidson is the co-president of Providence’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, where Elias is in fourth grade and Leo in first. Jill works on education issues nationally as the publications director of the Coalition of Essential Schools and can be reached at

Kira Greene, mom to two students at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point, is the chair of the PTO’s “Prospective and New Parent Committee.” Kira works part-time in real estate and what appears to be full-time volunteering for her children’s school! Kira can be reached at

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