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Submitted by on 1, February 20, 2009 – 8:00 amNo Comment

Like many people, Tamara Lange and her family moved to Alameda for good schools. They bought a house almost five years ago just a block from Edison School. But this week, Lange found out her kids may not get to go there.

Lange’s child is thirteenth on the waiting list for a kindergarten slot at Edison, one of dozens of kids in the Island’s East End who played the school lottery this week and lost. Three of the Island’s four East End schools – Bay Farm, Edison and Otis – were short a combined four dozen kindergarten slots, and district officials said last week that the fourth school – Amelia Earhart – is full.

District officials are scrambling to come up with solutions to their enrollment problems – solutions that could include a portable and a fourth kindergarten class at Edison, increased class sizes, shifting school boundaries and diverting some of their youngest charges to wherever they can find a seat.

Meanwhile, parents are scrambling too, to decide whether to sit on the district’s waiting lists and hope for the best, push for a move to another public school or send their children to private schools – risking their chances of getting back into their neighborhood school at a later date.

Lange said she’s got until the end of next week to let her preschool know whether her child will stay on for kindergarten next fall. The preschool is also holding a slot open for her 2-year-old, and her decision to send that child to the school will be predicated on how the district’s kindergarten conundrum turns out.

“The stress level is very high,” she said.

But it’s not likely the district will have decisions made by then, according to Student Services chief Jeff Knoth, who met with Edison parents who gathered at the Crosstown Coffeehouse on Thursday night to answer their questions about this week’s lotteries and to lay out the path ahead.

The board isn’t scheduled to discuss its enrollment issues at its meeting Tuesday, Knoth said. But parents said they plan to come Tuesday to talk to the board about the problem, in an effort to get it solved soon.

Knoth said he thinks the district will probably add a kindergarten class at Edison, which has the students and the space to support it. He also said he thinks he can work out a deal for the after-school program that’s at the school to remain. But that is subject to the school board’s approval. (A similar deal was on the table last year, but the board deadlocked on it in a 2-2 vote.)

Other short-term solutions to the surplus of students could include increasing class sizes, shifting attendance zone boundaries and moving kids to other schools.

Meanwhile, he said the district’s enrollment issues will stretch well beyond this year. A demographic study presented to the district last year showed its enrollment numbers climbing in the East End; according to Board President Mike McMahon’s website, the district expects to be short 230 seats at its elementary schools over the next five years.

“This district needs to look at the structure of its schools, because our situation over the next 10 to 20 years is untenable,” Knoth said, adding that the district is planning to revive its defunct school restructuring committees.

Lange said that if her child doesn’t get into Edison this year, she’ll try for next year, and put some time into figuring out what her options are.  (She said she had also considered waiting a year and trying to get her daughter into kindergarten the following year if things didn’t work out, but decided that wasn’t best for their child.) And if that doesn’t pan out?

“I’d seriously have to think about moving,” she said.

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