A team of about 20 volunteers and district employees canvassed the neighborhoods around Thelma R. Parks Elementary, knocking on doors and sweating in the muggy summer air.
School starts Monday for Parks and the rest of Oklahoma City Public Schools. But as of Wednesday morning, fewer than 70 children were enrolled at the school administrators expect more than 300.
Principal Rejeana Payne asked the volunteers to tell parents to enroll — don't worry about uniforms, don't worry about paperwork, don't worry about transfers.
“Whatever the reason, just get them here,” Payne said. “We can work it out.”
District workers are in the final push of a two-month campaign to get students pre-enrolled and then to school on Monday. There have been mailers, radio spots, yard signs and phone calls.
But for some schools, like Parks Elementary, enrollment is still lagging.
Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer knocked on the door of a neat brick house and waited patiently. A woman in a white tank top opened the door. She said she didn't have any school-age children, but she took a flier and promised to tell her friends who did.
In Oklahoma City Public Schools, about 1 in 4 of children is absent the first day, according to district data.
“We want to have 45,000 kids in school on the first day,” Springer said. “It's just important. For kids, it's kind of like the first day on the job. It's just something you can't replace.”
Parents don't enroll their children or take them on the first day for a variety of reasons. Some don't realize they have to enroll their children ever year, even if the students attended the same school the year before.
One problem is some parents waiting for a transfer to another district. The open transfer period is in the spring — not the beginning of school. When they discover their children can't go somewhere else, school has already started.
“Most schools don't start for two or three weeks,” Springer said. “If the kid doesn't get a transfer, they'll miss two or three weeks of school.”