Newark mayor calls on Christie to intervene in school enrollment process

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Kristin Thorne is live at the Newark school before sign-up Friday. (WABC)

The mayor of Newark is calling on Governor Chris Christie to intervene after hundreds of frustrated parents again lined up Friday to try to sign their children up for school.

Mayor Ras Baraka says the enrollment is now more orderly, but that deep problems remain with the process.

More than 600 parents turned out on Thursday to enroll their children for the upcoming school year, which begins in two weeks. About half of them left angry and frustrated when they weren't seen.

Baraka says the state-controlled school district's "One Newark" plan is to blame.

"We've created a process that not only made the process more cumbersome, more tedious, but less equitable," Baraka said. "I'm asking that the governor, who is the decider, come in to the city of Newark and intervene immediately."

Baraka wants Christie to discuss ways to overhaul One Newark and re-evaluate the role of the school superintendent.

Hundreds of parents showed up Thursday at Newark Vocational on West Kinney Street, which had been set up as a centralized registration location. But many said they stood in line for hours and resolved nothing. More staffing was promised for Friday.

"Newark parents have legitimate, serious complaints about the registration process," an announcement issued Friday morning said. "Students are being assigned to schools far away from their homes and siblings are being split up. These problems place serious burdens on children and their families."

Parents have been trying to register using the One Newar" program, designed to help involve parents in the school selection process, but parents argue most assignments aren't ideal. The district closed some schools and only recently told parents.

On Thursday, Baraka said he was "deeply concerned about the effects of this situation on Newark families who are not receiving orderly, efficient and courteous treatment, as they begin their children's school year."

Despite being asked to sign up online, throngs of parents showed up at the new enrollment center at Newark Vocational, launched to help with the process. A message on the district's website cautioned that while the enrollment center is open, workers were "experiencing extremely high volumes."

Families were encouraged to wait until next week to visit the center, which is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

"The number of families seeking support at Newark Vocational reminds us what we already know -- families in Newark want the best for their students," Enrollment Center director Nancy Deering said. "We worked feverishly to support as many as we could today and will continue to provide good customer service throughout the week. Our goal was to work through challenges now before the first day of school, so students and families are ready Day One. We will increase the number of staff, work through any missteps from today, and improve tomorrow in pursuit of that goal."
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