‘Match letters’ are delayed in Newark as families anxiously await school placements for the fall

The wait isn’t over yet for Newark families eager to learn where their children will be headed to school this fall.

Newark Public Schools posted a notice on its website Monday saying that letters scheduled to go out on April 15 telling families what schools their children will attend in the fall have not yet been completed.

“We are working diligently to finalize Newark Enrolls match letters,” the notice said. “Please continue to monitor our website for further updates.”

Families with children entering kindergarten or high school in September, or those hoping to switch schools, had until Feb. 15 to apply to up to eight schools for the coming academic year. All of the city’s roughly 70 district-run schools and most of its nearly 20 charter schools participate in the online application system.

Students were supposed to learn Monday which schools the district matched them with using a computer program that factors in family preferences alongside other considerations such as the number of available seats and whether applicants have any special needs.

The district posted an alert about the match letters on its website Monday.

A district spokeswoman said Monday afternoon that she believed “some” matches had been completed, but that the district had encountered technical difficulties. It was not clear whether the problem related to the matching process or the notification letters, which were supposed to be sent to families via email on Monday and available for pickup on Tuesday.

“There is a glitch that we are working on,” said spokeswoman Tracy Munford in an email. “We are asking people to check the home page of the district web site for updates.”

Munford also sent out a notice Monday afternoon saying that a school board meeting planned for that evening had been cancelled.

Monday’s delay is just the latest hiccup in the enrollment process for next school year.

In January, the district delayed by a month a new admissions test that students were required to take in order to get into one of the district’s popular magnet schools, which already consider applicants’ academic and attendance records when deciding whom to admit.

Last fall, the district’s new superintendent, Roger León, and charter school leaders clashed over proposed changes to the district-charter enrollment system, called Newark Enrolls. In response, the charter sector accelerated planning for an alternative system, although that never materialized.

Both sides eventually agreed to continue with a joint enrollment system for at least another year. But some people in the charter sector privately questioned whether León’s administration was prepared to manage the enrollment process — a concern that intensified after the top district officials who had overseen enrollment stepped down last year.

On Monday afternoon, an employee who answered a call to the district’s family support center said she wasn’t sure when the technical difficulties with the enrollment system would be resolved.

“We’ve having a delay,” the employee said. “Just keep looking out on the web page.”

A family engagement specialist at a school told Chalkbeat that she had not received any information from the district about the delay. She said she expected concerned parents to begin calling to ask when they would learn where their children are going to school next year.

“I expect I’m going to get a flood of these phone calls,” said the specialist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press. “There’s always a lot of anxiety around this process.”