Heads up, parents: If you have a child entering kindergarten at Champaign Unit 4 School District in the 2019-20 school year, the process to determine where your child will go to school starts now — and we’re here to help.
First, we’ve answered six of the most commonly asked questions we hear about the Champaign kindergarten registration process; we’ve compiled important dates from the district as well.
- WHY DOES CHAMPAIGN UNIT 4 ASSIGN KINDERGARTENERS TO SCHOOL THROUGH THIS PROCESS?
Well, the history behind why Champaign Unit 4 has Schools of Choice is a long one. Instead of getting bogged down with that, district parents should know that the kindergarten assignment process provides the best opportunity for families to get their children the school placement they desire. In recent years, the data has been about the same: 85 percent of families received their first choice while roughly 95 percent received one of their top five choices, out of roughly 700 families.
- HOW DO WE KNOW WHICH SCHOOL IS RIGHT FOR OUR FAMILY?
There are a few things that might determine fit for your family (and notice I say family, not just the child). Before you even start touring the schools, consider these different options and opportunities. There are several things to consider right off the bat:
A. Calendar: do you want a traditional school calendar (mid-August to late May) or are you interested in a balanced calendar option (mid-July to early June, with a shorter summer, a lengthy fall break, and extra time at spring break) known more commonly as year-round school)?
B. Start Time: Do you want a school that starts at a certain time, either early (before 8 a.m.) or later (around 8:55)? Start times vary greatly, depending on the school.
C. Curriculum: Are you interested in specific curriculum options such as dual language (French at Stratton, or Spanish at International Prep Academy), STEM focus (Booker T. Washington), or Chinese language (Garden Hills)? Perhaps computer programming (Kenwood)? There are many options, which will expand with new magnet programs at Garden Hills and Stratton.
D. Special Needs: Does your child have special needs? All schools serve children with special needs, but some offer more specialization than others. For instance, Carrie Busey Elementary has specific programming for children with hearing deficits.
E. Location, Location, Location. Do you want a school close to home? Every family gets ONE proximity priority school, which is either within 1.5 miles from your house or the closest one as determined by the district. While some families might be within the proximity zone for multiple schools, they can only elect one as its proximity priority school. You can check your proximity area online.
F. Middle School Placement. In Champaign Unit 4, where a child attends elementary school dictates where s/he will go to middle school (currently there are three middle schools). If this matters to you, you should understand which schools feed where.
- HOW DO WE GET TO KNOW THE SCHOOLS?
It’s difficult to get a sense for school climate without taking a well-rounded temperature. Here are a few ways:
A. School Tours: Take advantage of the school tours offered by the district during the Schools of Choice registration period, see dates below. If you can’t make those tours, ask the district or school to arrange others.
B. Attend the info forum. One of the hidden gems of the forum information session is that typically each building principal will attend. Talking to building principals is very important to get a sense of a school.
C. Ask Your Network: Network to meet people connected to the schools — parents, teachers, aides. How to network? Ask your friends, neighbors or colleagues who have kids in the schools or know parents of kids in certain schools.
D. Talk to Students: Probably most overlooked in the process: talk to kids who attend those schools!
E. Attend a PTA meeting. Parental involvement important to you? Attend a school PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meeting. Call the school to get the dates; some PTAs are more active than others.
- HOW DO WE GUARANTEE THE SCHOOL WE WANT?
You can’t. Really, you can’t. However you can maximize your chances by gaining a more thorough understanding of the process.
A. Understand your proximity option (or options) as you have the best chance to get that school.
B. Sibling preference is pretty much guaranteed; of course, it’s hard to know when a school has a lot of siblings in the incoming kindergarten pool.
C. Socioeconomic status (which includes income and educational attainment) is factored into the equation.
A comprehensive look at the process can be found at the district’s website. This has links to all of the elementary schools, the registration forms, and information on proximity.
- IS THERE AN ADVANTAGE TO REGISTERING EARLY?
Parents can register a child for the kindergarten lottery between Jan. 2-March 29, 2019; but early registration provides no advantage to the child’s placement. The long window of time is purely for convenience sake and there is no correlation between WHEN someone registers a child (as long as it is before the deadline) and one’s placement.
- IF WE HAVE A YOUNGER SIBLING HEADED FOR KINDERGARTEN, DO I NEED TO GO THROUGH THE PROCESS AGAIN?
The short answer is, YES. All families with an incoming kindergartner should register during the assignment period to ensure that child gets a seat in their desired school, and siblings are no different. The district will always do its best to place a younger child with older sibling(s) in the same school as desired. Families can always choose to request a different school for the sibling; the district does not assume to know your preferences.
IMPORTANT DATES FOR CHAMPAIGN UNIT 4 SCHOOLS KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION
REGISTRATION DATES: Jan. 2-March 29, 2019. Students must turn 5 on or before Sept. 1, 2019, to be eligible. Parents must provide a birth certificate and proof of residency at the time of registration. Registration must be done in person at the Center for Family and Community Engagement (703 S. New St., Champaign). There is no online registration available. (NOTE: This is the former Mellon Building).
TOURS: The 12 Champaign Unit 4 elementary schools will be open for tours, from a staff member, on Tuesdays and Thursdays in February at 9:30 a.m.
INFO SESSION: Thursday, Jan. 24, at Garden Hills Academy (2001 Garden Hills Dr., Champaign). A community resource fair begins at 5:30 p.m. and the Schools of Choice information program begins at 6 p.m.
EVENING OPEN HOUSES: There are two evening open houses; however, plan ahead to see the schools you want to visit as only six are open each night:
- Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Barkstall, Carrie Busey, Bottenfield, IPA, Robeson and Kenwood.
- Thursday, Feb. 7, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Dr. Howard, Garden Hills, South Side, Stratton, Westville and Booker T. Washington.
INDIVIDUAL QUESTIONS: Unit 4 has Choice Specialists available to answer questions by phone (217-351-3701) or in person at the Center for Family and Community Engagement, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
ASSIGNMENT NOTIFICATION: In the past three years, families received notification of kindergarten placement via mail, in mid- to late April. Notification dates are not guaranteed.
For more information visit the Unit 4 kindergarten process website.