Tameeka Mason of Camden Enrollment. Photo courtesy of the Camden Education Fund.

By Tameeka Mason | Camden Enrollment

Parents across the country are all engaged in some version of the same difficult conversation right now:

“What’s the right choice when it comes to enrolling my child in school this fall? Should I prioritize in-person instruction? Will my child feel supported by an all-remote option? Can I pull off homeschooling?” The stakes are high, the guidance is constantly changing, and it’s hard to find trustworthy information.    

Now more than ever, families need support as they navigate the maze of school options, and I’m pleased that the organization I lead — Camden Enrollment — is doing its part to build tools to assist families.  

Camden Enrollment is a one-stop-shop where families can learn about and apply to Camden schools. We have a website that is updated weekly, a hotline that is available to families in both English and Spanish, and an online tool that allows families to learn about schools in the city. It’s all designed to simplify the process of enrolling in school and makes admissions fairer.

As a mom and Camden public school alumnus, I always thought this kind of unified system would make families’ lives easier. Now I know for sure. In June, an independent poll found that 93% of Camden parents support a single application system to allow parents to pick a school for their child.  

Due to the pandemic, we know that parent engagement will exist mostly in virtual environments.  Camden Enrollment has embraced this transition head-on. In the spring, we unveiled a new online process for families to not just enroll in the school of their choice, but also to register. The new platform allows parents to safely and securely submit documents like immunization records and proofs of address from the comfort of their home. As we look toward the fall, Camden Enrollment is gearing up to make virtual school tours available to families, as well as continue our online calendar of events, newsletters, online application portal, and hotline/text message access.

It’s possible, if not likely, that virtual parent engagement will remain the norm even after COVID goes away. Advocates like me who wake up every day trying to help families must confront the reality that this shift will impact some families differently, depending on access to technology, work/family schedules, and language barriers, among other factors. Thanks to Camden Enrollment’s history with online tools, we feel well prepared to serve all families in the virtual format. We are also always learning and listening, and we are ready to make changes and introduce new platforms along the way. How families interact with our tools and utilize our resources may look different, but our mission will remain the same: providing families the opportunity to easily enroll in the school that best fits the needs of their child. 

Right now, families are faced with imperfect choices like homeschool, virtual school, and hybrid school, all while worrying about health, safety, and employment. Next year, when the pandemic is behind us, families will continue to have many school choices, but this time — as our schools continue to improve — they will be picking from a variety of GOOD choices. That’s the kind of “problem” I am optimistic Camden families will have in the future. And then, as now, Camden Enrollment will be here to help them, whether that’s in-person or online.

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