Updated August 9, 2022 - 6:43 pm
Hundreds of Clark County families have been left scrambling to enroll their children in classes over the last several days after the school district changed how it enrolls students in shared housing.
The shared housing process applies to families who have a shared, long-term living arrangement.
Shared housing requests were previously handled and approved by individual schools but are now handled by the district. Families who share housing have been asked to bring a notarized request form to the district’s Education Services Division at 4204 Channel 10 Drive before their children can be enrolled in classes this school year.
It’s now affecting multigenerational families and blended families who are in a rush to get their children enrolled for school, even after the start of classes on Monday.
On Friday afternoon, the division had approved roughly 500 to 600 families for shared housing that day, according to Mike Barton, chief college, career, equity and school choice officer.
For Karen Gonzalez, who lives with her parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece in the same house, the process has created confusion.
On Monday, the first day of school, the family traveled to the district offices and waited, with other families, in the hopes that they could get her niece enrolled.
Gonzalez called the waiting outside the district offices, with at least a hundred other parents and children, a mess. In the summer heat, and with no signs pointing them in the right direction about where they could get the document notarized, the family left and paid to get it notarized elsewhere.
“No one knew what was going on,” she said. “There was no one outside to ask what was going on or where to go or anything.”
‘We want them in school’
The district had 291,893 students enrolled on the first day of school, according to Superintendent Jesus Jara. That number falls well below what the district had projected, but district spokesman Tod Story said families are expected to continue enrolling students throughout the week, and the district doesn’t expect to certify its official enrollment until count day in September.
Story said some families may have been unaware of the changes or procrastinated on submitting the required documentation, creating a surge in last-minute registrations this week. He said that supplemental teams would be at schools helping students get registered and that no family should think twice about showing up at school to get a child enrolled.
“We’re willing to work with them. We want them in school,” he said. “We will work it out to make sure their child can enroll and participate.”
As of Monday, less than a third of families who requested some kind of residential affidavit change last year had participated in the updated process this year, according to Story.
Last school year, the district identified 30,000 families that had participated, but as of Monday, the district had received 8,568 shared housing or residential affidavit requests.
Barton said on Friday that the previous process had the potential to be abused. Students who enroll at a school using a shared housing letter are ineligible to participate in sports at that school.
Centralizing the policy for shared housing and requiring parents to make requests through the district is an attempt to make the process more equitable and to eliminate bias or favoritism about whose requests are approved, according to Story. The change was meant to help equalize the process across the board so that schools didn’t wind up with too many students, or too few.
“That’s why we think we’re seeing lower numbers because it’s being done in a more equitable way than it was previously,” Story said.
Trouble finding answers
But Gonzalez views the process she and her family endured on Monday as anything but equitable.
Her niece goes to a low-income school on the east side where many of the parents are people of color. Many of them don’t speak English and don’t have access to technology or regularly access their emails.
“There’s no one for them to talk to. They don’t know how to use the internet,” she said. “How are they supposed to get information?”
In an email to families sent Saturday, the district said families still needing to complete the online registration for student enrollment should report to schools for help.
Families who may qualify for shared housing were contacted throughout the summer, and if a student is in a shared housing situation, schools can help with online registration and will work directly with the shared housing office to aid families with required enrollment information, the district said in its email.
Gonzalez said her brother went to her niece’s school, Sunrise Acres Elementary, on Friday to sort out the issue. School officials referred the family to the shared housing office but did not provide details on what documents they needed to email for enrollment.
Calls to a district phone number she was given went unanswered, she said.
Gonzalez said she found out through a private Facebook group for district parents how to get to the Education Services Division.
“There’s no one to tell us where to go, what to do, what papers to send in,” she said. “My niece is missing school.”
Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or email@example.com. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter.