MILWAUKEE -- This school year, Milwaukee Public Schools will see a record number of young students in classrooms, who may not have been there for the first day of school in years past.
Laura Johnikan is just one of dozens of MPS employees who spent the summer making sure the district’s youngest students were in a classroom by September 5th. According to MPS, a huge chunk of four-year-olds typically shows up for class, much later in the school year.
“We didn't feel they were coming in the numbers we would like to see,” said Matthew Boswell, director of MPS Student Services, who added the delay in school starts makes it difficult, for little ones to catch up.
“Studies have proven that kids with an early start become great adults,” said Johnikan.
Boswell told TODAY'S TMJ4, the district found the bulk of those students came from poorer households on the north and south sides of town. Instead of waiting for parents to find internet access or transportation to the central office to enroll their children; the district took registration to the neighborhoods.
TODAY'S TMJ4 followed canvassers down a stretch of 18th in Arlington Heights as they knocked door to door.
“Parents are telling me they were not aware it was an all day program. Some parents say that our school hours don’t work for their work schedule. Sometimes you have to leave at six, and most schools start at 7:35. 'Who is going to put them on the bus? Are they going to be on the corner?” recalled Johnikan.
Right now, MPS employees are working with parents, following up, and helping them figure out what works best for their kids and families.
So far, more than 5,000 four-year-olds are now enrolled for this school year. It’s the largest enrollment for early education the district has ever seen.
“Things can happen. We just have to let our parents know how to track their children's education,” said Johnikan.