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Parents Wait, Wait, Wait for School

October 26, 1985

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ While their children may be lining up to buy tickets for rock concerts, parents are queuing for as long as five days to sign up their offspring for special programs in the city’s public schools.

The latest wait began at about 6 a.m. Wednesday when two parents started a line outside the Sterrett Classical Academy, a public middle school, to enroll their children at 8 a.m. Monday for ″magnet″ program classes that don’t begin until next September.

″I’m really sorry to see the lines starting so early. These people have to sit out here until Monday morning. It’s crazy,″ said Marlene Goldstein, co- president of the Sterrett Parent-Teacher Organization.

Some of the parents bring tents, kerosene heaters and even portable toilets.

Fifty-five of the city’s 83 schools offer the ″magnet″ programs, which are intended to provide curricula superior to those in other public schools and to draw equal numbers of black and white students from all parts of the city.

Among the popular magnet programs are full-day kindergartens, modern languages for middle- and high-school students, technical-vocational studies and even Army ROTC for high school, according to school officials.

About 1,300 students will be accepted for various high-school programs, about 625 for middle-school programs and about 1,400 students for various elementary-school programs in September, officials said.

Students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for the specialized programs so long as the racial balance is maintained.

″I don’t see any real solution″ to the lines, said Jake Milliones, Pittsburgh school board president, who will be waiting to sign up his daughter on Nov. 4 for a popular international studies program at Schenley High School Teacher Center.

″Unfortunately, people have the perception that if they don’t get into a magnet program, you’re not going to get a good education,″ he said. ″That’s not true.″

At Sterrett, two parents claimed their turf when they saw another parent ready to start a line outside the school. Within an hour, 20 parents were lined up. Ten hours later, 59 names were on an informal list.

Each year, the school board discusses whether to continue the present line- up system or to start a lottery. In recent years, the board has moved the signup from the winter’s snow and freezing rain to the fall. The board also allows parents to spend Sunday nights inside school buildings.

″Clearly, the solution is to have more options,″ said School Superintendent Richard Wallace, noting that elementary foreign language classes and classical studies programs were expanded this year to try to meet demand.

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