Many California families may relate to the early morning rush to submit paperwork to enroll in a neighborhood elementary school, and secure their child’s spot for the next six or seven years. Schools throughout the Sacramento region ask parents to register through lotteries and on site.
This has been the school’s process since it opened in 2008. Parents registering their first child at the school must wait in line, while parents who have registered children in the past have priority registration and don’t come out to camp.
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The district calls the rule fair but acknowledges how competitive it becomes.
Some parents set up tents. Some rented RVs. Others sat in camping chairs braving the rain, cold and wind to ensure their children were among the 100 to land spots at the school. The school secretary dropped by Sunday to check applications and make sure everyone had what they needed to register.
“If you’re not camping, you’re not getting in,” said Sabina Khan. She and her husband, Keith Mack, were twelfth in line, and rotated over the weekend to enroll their daughter.
Western Placer Unified School District, home to 7,000 students, was scheduled to build a new elementary school in Lincoln in 2006. But delays ensued after the 2008 recession, and the district encountered difficulties acquiring the land after ferry shrimp – an endangered species – were found on site.
“It’s been a major inconvenience for the parents,” Leaman said of the registration process. “But we tried so many different things, and it was fraught with major problems. In people’s minds, ‘first come, first served’ seems to work best.”
“People would complain that the person behind them in the post office got in and they didn’t,” he said.
“They saw us camping out and thought they had priority, but we told them they need to get in just like the rest of us,” she said.
“Hopefully, these days are behind us now,” Leaman said.