Where are the children?

As of Wednesday, thousands of children are still not registered for school. There were several early registration events planned throughout the summer and this past weekend to provide parents with an opportunity to get students registered, but despite such efforts, as a district, over 10,000 students still have not made their way to a school within the Shelby County School (SCS) district.

I can’t say that this is a surprise. Remembering my own time as both a legacy Memphis City Schools and Achievement School District employee, enrollment would be pretty low during those first few weeks of school and not leveling off until on or around the Labor Day holiday. Weeks would pass before we could say classrooms were full with bright minds eager and ready to learn. It was never strange to have students straggle in after the Labor Day holiday and try to make the necessary adjustments to catch-up. Missing almost a month of school is not okay even if it is the beginning month. How do we emphasize this to parents? With the many back-to-school events, the registration drives and even the convenience of online enrollment, we’re still left asking the question, “Where are the children?”

For some parents, it’s a matter of understanding the different school zones and which schools their children can attend. For others, it’s the inability to buy school uniforms and/or supplies for their children, so they choose to keep them at home until they’re able to do so. Over the last few days, I received phone calls from parents who were still “school shopping” and wanting information on where to send their child; they are still unsure as to what their final decision would be. Though puzzled by what I perceived as a late pursuit, I did my best to work with parents and give them the information they requested.

Sadly enough, this is a reality for our school district and one that we’ve lived through for years. Both the charter sector and the traditional public schools have worked on decreasing these late enrollment numbers.   In their defense, they’ve tried to be accommodating to parents because of their varying schedules and family demands.

What is apparent is we have a great number of students who have yet to walk through the school doors. Where are they? At home perhaps? But they need to be in the classroom learning. School is in session and we’re still searching for children.