CAMDEN, NJ — A roadmap for schools reopening was provided by the state last week, although how Camden schools will specifically adjust is still in the works.
That such a horizon existed, however, was not clear earlier this year, when some parents that make up the 15,000-plus student district began preparing to register their children for school.
With help from the Camden City School District (CCSD), non-profit Camden Enrollment created an online tool to help ease the process for students entering pre-K, kindergarten, or ninth grade.
“My oldest attended Camden Big Picture [Learning Academy] three years ago and I liked how that experience was, so it was important Natalia went there as well,” Juanita Luciano told TAPinto Camden.
Luciano says she was relieved when her daughter, Natalie Martinez, was accepted to Big Picture Learning Academy. Still, she’s wary about the prospect of her entering the ninth grade this fall in person.
“I’m not sure what the plan is exactly but I don't know about them going back so soon,” she said. “The virus is still out there, still making things difficult and that amount of people in one place concerns me.”
Camden Enrollment’s Executive Director Tameeka Mason said in addition to helping to follow COVID-19 guidelines and practice social distancing, “the purpose of the online registration portal was to have an easier way for school staff and parents to engage with uploading and completing documents for the completion of new student registration.”
Their tool, she said, led to 93% of applicants being accepted to a school of their choice (students/parents rank their five preferred schools) - a 5% increase from last year’s main round which runs from mid-January to April.
The non-profit also noted that like Martinez, 85% of students matched to their first ranked school.
Naceirra McEady’ 4-year-old son Aviv Jones — on his way to pre-K, was accepted to the Early Childhood Development Center.
McEady said she found the online registration tool easy to use and understand.
She says although the program is early on in development, she would have found a virtual tour of the building helpful too.
“I know that’s not something that may not be very easy to do, but I would want to see at least a video of the school building, hallways and classrooms before making the decision,” McEady said.
Josefina Noriega said despite her primary language being Spanish, Camden Enrollment’s tool and on-call resources allowed her to register her 5-year-old, Adriana Arpeaga into kindergarten without any issues.
“Me fue muy bien, bueno a estado asi durante el año mientras ella tenia que aprender de casa,” Noriega said.
“It went very good, it’s been the case during the year while she’s had to learn from home.”