CPS Ends First-Come, First-Served Magnet-School Enrollment

A long-held tradition for Cincinnati parents is over, at least for now, as Cincinnati Public Schools has suspended its policy of first-come, first-served enrollment for the district’s in-demand magnet schools.

A long-held tradition for Cincinnati parents is over, at least for now, as Cincinnati Public Schools has suspended its policy of first-come, first-served enrollment for the district’s in-demand magnet schools. The Cincinnati Board of Education voted unanimously to suspend the practice.

Residents looking to get their kids into high-performing magnet schools like the Fairview-Clifton German Language School will now be entered into a lottery system instead of waiting outside the school for weeks at a time.

Education board members have cited fairness and safety concerns for ending the first-come, first-served practice. Last year, parents camped out for up to 16 days to enroll their children in some of the district’s best-performing schools.

But not all parents have the time to spend two or more weeks waiting outside the school they want to send their child to. That wait could be especially hard for single parents or households with two working adults.

Some officials also said that the city’s current gun-violence problem influenced the decision.

“Unless the violence problem is solved, I think it’s not prudent to enable people on our property, outside, for weeks on end, 24 hours a day,” board member Melanie Bates told The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Magnet schools are highly focused public schools designed to provide high-quality educational opportunities to a diverse range of students. The schools look to draw students who might not otherwise attend urban public schools and also to extend educational opportunities to students in underserved communities. Cincinnati’s magnet program was created in 1973.

Enrollment for CPS’ high-demand magnet schools has several tiers. First are so-called “priority” students — those who already have an older sibling attending classes at that school.

Then a number of seats are set aside for students whose closest schools are among the district’s lowest performers, an effort to offer those students a chance at a better education. Those six schools include Rockdale Elementary, Frederick Douglass, Hays Porter, Rees E. Price, Roselawn-Condon and W.H. Taft Schools.

After a certain number of students from those schools are accommodated, the rest of the seats are up for grabs — hence the campouts.

Now, a computer will randomly choose who gets to enroll. That’s a temporary solution, board of education members say. They’ll work with parents and others in the community to come up with a new, permanent system for enrollment.

This year, applications for students to be put in the enrollment lottery will be accepted from Oct. 24 until Nov. 29. After that, parents will be notified of their child’s status via a letter sometime in early December.

The decision didn’t sit well with some parents, who have taken to social media and online comment sections to voice disapproval over the end of first-come, first served.

Some have threatened to leave neighborhoods like Clifton and Northside, where magnet schools are located, or even the city altogether.

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