Parents brave arctic overnight for kindergarten

Two of the parents who waited outside the Penn Alexander School through frigid temperatures overnight to get their children a spot in kindergarten.

January 24, 2011 4:19:31 PM PST
The low overnight temperature in the city was 9°. Yet, a group of parents was camped out along a sidewalk in West Philadelphia.

"We're waiting to get into kindergarten," said West Philadelphian Barry Bush. "That's what we're doing. That's the most important thing, that's why we're all here. Hopefully everyone will get their child in here."

They are talking about the $18-million Penn Alexander School, a joint venture started by the Philadelphia School District and the University of Pennsylvania 10 years ago.

Today was registration day for parents who live within the school's designated boundaries. Anyone who lives within it can apply for kindergarten. Space is limited and therefore, where you are in line determines whether you get a spot.

The man who was number 2 in line staked out his spot at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Chris O'Donnell of West Philadelphia told Action News: "This school really answered the question of whether or not to stay in this community."

About 76 parents were waiting to fill out an application when the doors opened. Only 50 children will be able to enroll. Notification letters will be sent out in the spring.

What is the lure? Some say it's the highly-certified teachers; others the small class sizes; still others the beautiful building.

Carl Ballinger, whose daughter has been here for seven years now, likes the diversity of students. "I love that there are 30 to 40 different nationalities." Action News asked Sheila Sydnor, the school's principal, if this happens every year. Her response: "Every year, but I think they are waiting earlier and earlier." Sydnor insists there are excellent alternatives, like Philadelphia public schools, for parents who miss the cut.

But the parents in line today, through their words and actions, quite clearly believe there is no alternative to Penn Alexander.