Schools Decide Not to Limit Parent Tours After All

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Hamilton International School originally said it would hold one tour but has now scheduled four
A few weeks ago, schools around the city were saying they would cut back this year on classroom tours for parents. Tours were "disruptive," the district explained, and besides, there was less need to shop around now, given the new assignment plan, which prods students to attend their neighborhood school.

But parents still have a choice of schools in the new plan, a fact this latest move seemed designed to obscure.

After critical coverage of the issue in SW and the blogosphere, however, the district late yesterday published a schedule of schools tours (see pdf) that looks much like previous years (although the district is sticking with a baffling rename of these tours, now called "visits"). Most schools will be holding three or more tours. Hamilton International middle school--whose principal said in January that he would have only one tour and one daytime "open house," according to an e-mail obtained by SW --is holding four.

District spokesperson Patti Spencer-Watkins insists that Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson never intended to limit parents' access to schools. In fact, she says the superintendent was trying to offer parents greater access by having schools hold open houses in the evenings and on weekends, the only time some working moms and dads are available.

Spencer-Watkins provided the superintendent's written instruction to principals on this issue, which was to hold a "minimum of one school visit for each school with additional visits added if the community interest is high."

Although Spencer-Watkins adamantly argues otherwise, that direction would seem to convey that one tour was the new standard, unless there was exceptional demand. Certainly, some schools seemed to take it that way, judging by their initial comments to parents.

But, as parent calls have come in this month in the face of looming enrollment deadlines, schools have apparently determined something that should have been obvious all along: New assignment plan or no, parents want to see all the schools their children might go to, and at a time that students and teachers are actually there, teaching and learning.

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