It’s the beginning of Spring Break on Friday, but not for Carpenter Community Charter Principal Joseph Martinez and his team of faculty members.
At midnight Friday night, it’s the deadline for families to apply to the charter-affiliated school that is reaching its capacity enrollment.
If more people from the neighborhood want to get in than they have room for, then residents may face a lottery and those not getting in could be bused to neighboring schools. But right now—thanks to some fraud searches now being done—it looks like they may have room for all the locals who want to attend their high-achieving community school.
“I don’t want to make any predictions, but I’m feeling great right now,” Martinez said Thursday. At a school Governance Council meeting he was trying to relieve concerns of prospective parents who moved to the neighborhood and want to be assured that there is room for their children.
The school is on Spring Break until April 2, but Martinez said he will be sending out emails to all the families applying by early next week to let them know if they made it into the school, or if there will be a lottery.
Things look good, however.
"We are plowing through the names and we are finding people who don't belong," Martinez said.
On March 18, the school finalized arrangements with the Los Angeles Unified School District to use the LexisNexis system to verify addresses through public records. This opened up requests from other schools in the district to do the same to verify fraudulent enrollment at their schools.
“We streamlined the process for other schools,” Martinez said. “A number of other schools are facing the same situation as we are. We were dancing in the streets when we got permission.”
So far, there are 123 student names—nearly five classrooms full—that have failed to find one of three public records that connect the family to their stated address within the Studio City district. The next step is for staff to have the families state their case about the discrepancies.
“Before we do that we have to do due diligence and open a case file on each family,” Martinez said.
At the moment, 189 applications have made it so far into Carpenter in all grades, while 176 of those are for new Kindergarten students. Nearly 30 families showed up at the school on Thursday for a tour to try to get into the school.
This past year, the Kindergarten enrollment ballooned to 210 new enrollments—an increase of 32 percent and that sent shockwaves through the school community.
It’s a priority to keep neighborhood children in the school, so they are now trying to ferret-out families that are fraudulently attending the school by faking addresses within the district.
“We MAY be able to accommodate all the Kindergarten stuents that have applied, but we won’t know until next week,” Martinez said. “We may avoid a lottery for the residents.”
Even among the new applicants, 32 addresses have been flagged, and a dozen were outright rejected.
“We could see a spike in enrollment today and Friday,” the principal said. “That would be a problem, but we are moving along identifying the fraud and we will see how it plays out.”
Governance Council Vice Chairman Oona Hanson pointed out that some residential applicants may opt out and go to private schools. “For some people, Carpenter is their Plan B, even though it’s their neighborhood school,” she said.
City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who has a child in the school, said LAUSD was right in giving the school the ability to find fradulent enrollment and said the residents should get into the school first. (See the video clip in the gallery above.)
If there is room, there are more than 200 non-resident applicants to get into the school on a wait list. After the residents all get in, any remaining spaces could go into a lottery for those applicants.
Resident applicants who complete an online information sheet by midnight March 22 will initiate the application and address verification process. Those residents whose addresses can be verified will be included in a lottery should there be a need for one. Resident applicants who do not complete the online information sheet by March 22, 2013 will be placed at the end of the lottery wait list after address verification.
The non-resident application process will be similar to previous years. To be considered for either lottery, potential new applicants for any and all grades for the 2013-2014 school year must complete an online information sheet through the school’s website at www.carpentercharter.org.