Joyce Oliver moved to Albany Avenue a few weeks ago from East Hartford. When she transferred her two daughters, Mikah Morris and Janai Oliver, out of their old elementary school, a staffer there told Joyce Oliver that it was simple: Just register the girls at their new neighborhood school in Hartford.
Oliver said it took her a while to secure a copy of her lease that proves residency. On Tuesday, the first day of classes in Hartford, Oliver went to M.L. King School on Ridgefield Street to register, but staff said that needed to be done at the board of education offices on Main Street.
At those offices, Oliver said she was told that MLK had no space for her children, that nearby schools were also full, and it could take "a week or two" to place Mikah and Janai in a city classroom. Oliver's second choice was West Middle Elementary on Asylum.
On Thursday, when we asked schools spokesman David Medina about another city family's case, he said that 158 students had not been placed in a school because they were late to register, but that all would be assigned to one by the end of Thursday.
For Mikah and Janai, at least, that has not happened. The girls are supposed to enter the first and third grade, respectively.
"I didn't know it was going to be this hard to get them in," Oliver said. "It was just a transfer."
If her daughters are assigned to a school across the city, so be it. "I don't want to wait all this time and them be penalized," she said. "They just need to be in school."
Deborah Lewis, the girls' grandmother, was heated and blamed the city's "choice" program, which she considered "a whole mess."
"They done messed up the whole city. Martin Luther King is the neighborhood school on Albany Avenue," Lewis said Friday. "I don't want to have her send her children all the way to the South End when they live in the North End."
Lewis said she longed for the days when one just showed up at the nearest school and registered on the spot. "It's a sad situation."
UPDATE at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday: With the "choice" program, which allows city families to research and apply for a school that isn't necessarily in their neighborhood -- a process that began months ago -- Medina reiterated that it's no longer possible to show up to the nearest school on the first day of classes and expect to be enrolled.
"It doesn't work that way anymore," said Medina, who added that he will look into Oliver's case.