Signing up for kindergarten is an anxious time for most parents, and this year's registration for the Menlo Park City School District is shaping up to be a particularly tense one. New attendance boundaries, the addition of kindergarten classes at Encinal, and a new Spanish immersion class are adding new wrinkles to the process.
Priority registration for incoming kindergarteners runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 29 at all three district elementary schools — Laurel, Oak Knoll and, for the first time, Encinal. All registrations received by the end of February will receive equal weight, said Superintendent Ken Ranella.
"You don't need to camp out the night before," Mr. Ranella said. "If you register at 5 p.m. on Feb. 29, you'll have the same status as if you registered Feb. 1."
Registrations received after Feb. 29 will be reviewed in the order received, he said. If one of the schools is oversubscribed, students will be transferred out of their home districts on a voluntary — or, if need be, involuntary — basis.
Registration packets are available at each school. Children must be age 5 by Dec. 2, 2008, in order to enroll. Proof of age and residency, and immunization records, are also required.
Along with the registration packets, parents will be able to apply for the brand-new Spanish immersion class that will be held at Encinal. A lottery will be held in March to select 20 children for the class; the district is looking for a 50-50 mix of fluent English and Spanish speakers.
Enrollment in Spanish immersion requires a six-year commitment, and a mandatory parent meeting about the program is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, at Encinal. Spanish speakers will have to demonstrate their fluency in an interview.
Mr. Ranella said that details about the curriculum should be hammered out by the end of March, and a teacher hired by April.
New attendance boundaries, approved by the school board on Jan. 15, carved away neighborhoods from Oak Knoll and Laurel in order to send incoming children to Encinal. Currently, children east of El Camino attend Laurel for kindergarten through second grade, and then go to Encinal for grades 3-5.
Starting with the upcoming school year, Encinal will phase in primary grades, becoming a full K-5 school by 2010.
Oak Knoll students whose homes now lie within the new Encinal attendance area, and their younger siblings, may still attend Oak Knoll, thanks to a "grandfathering" provision.
Oak Knoll school is holding a kindergarten orientation meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, in the school library.
Dates haven't yet been set for kindergarten orientation meetings at Laurel and Encinal schools.
District officials are projecting that 294 children will enroll in kindergarten, Mr. Ranella said. At 20 children per class, the district can comfortably accommodate 300 kindergartners. If enrollment exceeds projections, class sizes will go up.
Enrollment in the district is expected to rise sharply in the next few years. That projected increase has triggered the boundary changes as well as plans for major construction projects on the campuses.