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Families Rush to Register for School One Day Before It Starts

By Julie Shapiro | September 5, 2012 8:46pm

NEW YORK — Dozens of anxious parents and children made a last-minute plea Wednesday for a school seat — less than 24 hours before the new school year began.

Families from all across Manhattan and beyond converged on the High School of Fashion Industries in Chelsea, one of the city's 10 centralized registration offices, to find out where their child would go to school the next morning.

A few of the families walked out beaming, having secured a spot in the school they had hoped for, but many others left confused or dejected, after being told they were missing key paperwork or that they needed to visit a different office.

"It's more aggravating than anything," said Mahogany Sanders, a Harlem resident who was trying to get her daughter a seat in the ninth grade at the Choir Academy of Harlem.

Sanders said her daughter attended the Choir Academy for middle school, so she assumed her daughter would be able to stay there for high school as well — but it turns out she still needed to apply and register in advance.

Sanders had hoped to take care of the registration Wednesday, but when she got to the enrollment center in Chelsea, workers told her she needed to bring her daughter with her, so they couldn't help.

"She won't let me get the referral letter because my daughter's not standing there," Sanders said as she left. "You've got to be kidding me."

Aisha Kaba, 13, a Lower East Side resident, visited the Chelsea registration center with her parents to try to find a high school to attend, after the family spent the past year in Africa.

Kaba said she completed eighth grade abroad, but because she didn't bring her most recent report cards with her on Wednesday, the enrollment staff would not allow her to register for high school.

"They said for me to go to the next grade I have to bring [the report card], or else I get left back," Kaba said. "It's a little stressful."

While some parents left the enrollment center in tears, Michael and Yvette Rose walked out smiling and excited.

The Battery Park City residents were thrilled to find out that their 12-year-old son, Tyler, could start seventh grade at P.S. 276, a new green school in their neighborhood.

Tyler attended the Innovate Manhattan Charter School last year, and both he and his parents said they disliked the school — but it wasn't until the fall orientation on Tuesday, when a teacher highlighted his experience in dealing with violent students, that they decided to try for a last-minute transfer.

"I felt like I was failing him as a parent," Yvette Rose said of her decision to seek a new school.

Tyler said he was happy to start over at P.S. 276, which is known for its strong science program, including an outdoor lab and solar panels.

"I know a lot of people there who love it," he said.

Other families had less luck getting what they wanted on Wednesday.

Carmen Negron, 39, was frustrated after she was turned away while trying to register her 8-year-old daughter, Cheyenne.

Earlier this year, Negron was living in a homeless shelter in Midtown, so she registered Cheyenne for school there, but now they are living with relatives in Richmond Hill, Queens, so Negron wants her daughter to attend the local P.S. 62.

Negron brought a sheaf of paperwork with her, including the mortgage and utility bills for her new home, but the workers at the center told her she needed a notarized letter proving that she has moved to Richmond Hill.

While the staff at the center suggested Negron return to Chelsea Thursday morning, Negron said she would try to bring Cheyenne directly to P.S. 62 instead, to make sure her daughter didn't miss the first day of school.

"People need to know this is a mess," Negron said as she left the center.

For more information about registering for school in New York City, visit the Department of Education's website. The ten student registration centers, including offices in all five boroughs, will be open Monday to Friday through Sept. 14 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parents must bring their child, the child's birth certificate or passport, the child's immunization records, the child's latest report card or transcript and two proofs of residence, which could be a utility bill, a lease or mortgage, a letter from a government agency, a property tax bill or a payroll receipt.