Parents wait in cold to get kids in school

January 30, 2008 7:39:02 PM PST
How far would you go to get your kid in the right elementary school? How about standing in line in front of the school for a couple of days? Parents in one San Mateo school district brought sleeping bags, hot coffee, and are waiting to register their kids on Friday. Sounds a bit much? Not for some parents.

On Wednesday morning, Toshi Tazawa claimed the first spot in line waiting to register his twins at Baywood Elementary. That quickly got other parents in San Mateo in a mad panic to claim a place in the queue.

"We're all here for our kids and we're here two days in advance of registration so it will be a couple of nights of near-freezing temperatures and getting to know my neighbors," says Todd Wade, parent.

There are 81 spots for kindergarten this year, but siblings have already taken up 52 of them. That means only 29 remain. It's Baywood's reputation that drives this quest to get in.

"The teachers, the staff, that's what makes a great school," says Julie Halpin, parent.

The proof is the API scores, which measure the students' proficiency in reading and math. Their scores are in the 900s out of a possible 1,000.

Parents conducted business from lawn chairs on the sidewalk and they will do almost anything, even fly grandparents to the Bay Area to stand in line. One grandparent flew out from Tuscan, Arizona to stand in line. How do these parents sleep and prepare if they are waiting in line?

"My wife is going to bring stuff, but I have to work tonight so we are going to have to work some shifts," says Dave Kiefer, parent.

Toshi Tasawa rented an RV at $160 dollars a night. The school district has been criticized by some parents for allowing the situation to get out of hand. The school district doesn't think so.

"We still have to say hello to the families, we have to review all the paperwork, we need the birth certificate, and we need to see the vaccination form, so there are things we need to see," says Joan Rosas, school district superintendent.

Some parents say the district should come up with a registration process more in line with the 21st century, but no one knows what that would look like.

"If you change the border, you are going to get some parents mad, if you go to a lottery system you are going to infuriate some parents, and if people stand in line you are going to infuriate some parents," says Toni DeCenzo, parent.

The district did come up with a solution later in the afternoon. They gave all the parents who made it to the list a number so they can go home. The parents will then have to arrive at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning to register. Parents say it's worth it.