At 8:55 a.m., five minutes before school was supposed to start Monday, the line of parents trying to enroll their kids at Banneker Elementary was out the front door.
“We’re 140 students over our enrollment, which is a good problem to have,” Principal Harrison Neal says, walking a preschooler to her classroom. “We were projected at 333 students. We’re currently at 462.”
Then he’s back on his walkie-talkie to ask how many students are still at breakfast.
A decision to open the Kansas City Public Schools enrollment office over the weekend resulted in an influx of students at several schools, including Banneker. The district had encouraged parents to enroll their kids a month ago, but many families still showed up on the first day of school unsure whose classroom their child had been assigned to.
Neal flips through a dogeared copy of the roster, trying to find a class to put a fifth grader in. He scribbles the student’s name at the bottom of the list and beckons for an aide to walk the child to class. Down the hall, an emergency alarm buzzes again. Someone else has exited through the wrong door.
But Neal, entering his second year as principal at Banneker, isn’t fazed.
“Just trying to serve the community,” he says cheerfully, handing his business card to a mother who’s here to sort out bus transportation. “That’s my cell number. Call me anytime. It's a great day to be at Banneker!”
By 10 o’clock, only a few families were still waiting in the attendance office at Banneker. Most students were sitting in classrooms, meeting their new teachers.
District-wide, enrollment was projected at 14,100, though KCPS officials predicted that number would go up in the coming days.
Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.