MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) - School starts in a little more than a month at the new charter Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System. Everyone -- even former students -- need to re-enroll to start classes this fall.
In the two and a half weeks registration has been open, about 250 students -- 100 of which are kindergartners -- have registered. 24 Hour News 8 also learned that 169 students applied to attend other schools in the area through the schools of choice program.
An application is not a guarantee that a student will be accepted or will choose to attend another school. No one knew how many students may choose to attend other charter schools in the area or private schools. Those numbers likely won't be available until school starts in September.
The enrollment so far is at about about 18% of the district's total population last year. Muskegon Heights school district had about 1,400 students in 2011-2012, down significantly over past years. For example, the 2007-2008 school year the district had 1,906 students.
24 Hour News 8 went into several different neighborhoods in the city to try to talk with parents and see if they knew about the need to re-enroll. In some neighborhoods, it was difficult to find a child who attended the local district, as many went to other districts in the area.
Jimmy Rone was a student at Muskegon Heights and his two children attended school in the district last year.
"I'm from the Heights, so I'd like to keep them there," Rone said. "I'm a Tiger all the way, yep."
But he said he hasn't gotten any phone calls or letters from the new district and hasn't heard anything since the end of last school year. He said he feels like he's in the dark.
"Let us know something what's going on, because like I said, I still want my kids to go there. So just need to let us know something. We need to know what to do because it's short-term now. Next month or so, it's time to go back," said Rone. "The last word I got was just send them anyway. Send them. There's going to be a school, but we don't know what. When it's time, if you don't hear anything, just send them to school, so that's what I was going to do."
Mosaica Education president and co-founder Gene Eidelman told 24 Hour News 8 they have been very public about the need to enroll and he feels the word "is getting out."
Mosaica is the company that will run the new charter district in the fall.
"The word will be out. We've just been on this for two and a half weeks," said Eidelman.
Eidelman said the company plans to aggressively publicize enrollment over the next few weeks before school starts through things like bill boards and a radio and newspaper campaign.
Eidelman also said robocalls started this weekend to more than 1,000 families with students enrolled in the district last year, and while about 20% of phones were answered and about 20% indicated they wanted more information, about 60% of those phone numbers were disconnected.
But what happens if a lot of parents feel the same way as Rone and hundreds of students just show up the first day of school?
"We are going to hire a little more teachers than we need, just because I know it happens everywhere," said Eidelman. "It happens at every charter school, but I think that over the communication we'll have with parents and the word of mouth, I'm really optimistic that people will understand."
Eidelmann said the district is planning for 1,200 students and will hire enough teachers for that many students, and at this point officials are hoping that parents will understand they need to register in advance.
"We're not going to get everybody, but I wouldn't be surprised if we got a little under, but I wouldn't be surprised if we're a little bit over," said Eidelmann.
Re-enrollment is a simple process that consists of filling out a form. Details about re-enrollment are available at the district's new website.
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