Fort Wayne resident and parent Chelicia Britt arrived at the Fort Wayne Community Schools Choice Fair on Saturday with her two children in tow, on a mission to find a school program for her 4-year-old daughter.
We really just want to know what schools in Fort Wayne have to offer, she said.
The Britt family, who moved to the city four months ago from Florida, was one of hundreds of families who came to Northrop High School to browse school, district department and community partner booths.
The fair was moved this year from January to November, following conversations about the district staying competitive with the numerous education options area parents have, including state-funded vouchers to attend private schools and the five charters now open in the county.
Part of the reason we moved (the fair) was to continue that conversation about choice; we want to show our schools are the best choice, district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.
FWCS hopes the choices it offers will stay in parents’ minds through January when the district’s schools will host a series of open houses for prospective families to visit. Applications for student transfer are due Feb. 1, and the district will hold its lottery Feb. 22.
Administrators, teachers, parents and students from each of the district’s 50 schools were on hand to talk to prospective parents and students at booths that showcased photos, videos, student artwork and test score data. District departments like transportation and nutrition services set up booths, as did community organizations like Science Central and Park Center.
Stockman said from 1,000 to 1,500 people attend the fair each year. This year, radio and TV spots advertised the fair. Also, direct mail was sent to families living in the district with children ages 3 to 5 and those with children moving from elementary to middle and from middle to high school. She said the district wasn’t expecting more or less people than in previous years.
Despite achieving a C grade on the state Department of Education’s A-F grading accountability system, the district hopes families will look past the grade to its academic offerings, unique programs, hardworking staffs and available student support of its schools.
Our schools are so much more than a letter grade, Stockman said.
Amanda Lawrence recently moved her family to Fort Wayne from Paulding, Ohio. She said she didn’t have too much information on school letter grades, but the academic offerings of FWCS were the main reason she came.
She’s looking to take her two sons out of Imagine Schools on Broadway, a charter school, because the material they’re learning at the school is repetitive from what they learned in their old schools last year, she said.
I want them to have more diversity and a better education, she said.
Lindley Elementary’s Spanish immersion program, in which students learn throughout the day in both English and Spanish with the intent for students to become bilingual, interests Lawrence, who also hoped to be a part of the lottery for her children to attend a magnet school.
Other families who already have students in district schools came to check out their options.
Sarah Crago was there with her son Andrew, who will make the transition from elementary to middle school next year.
They live close to the boundary separating Miami and Kekionga middle schools, so they came to compare the two, looking at clubs, sports and academic assistance programs, Sarah said.
She said she liked that the schools’ principals and administrators were available to meet and answer questions.
I want to know someone who’s there every day that deals with kids every day, she said.