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Parent Frustration Over Newark Student-Enrollment Plan Mounts

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The first day of school in Newark, N.J., was met with parent boycotts and confusion over the district's new student-enrollment plan.

News accounts of the first day of classes Thursday in the state's largest school district ranged from Superintendent Cami Anderson touting improvements to the system, to community organizers claiming their planned parent boycott was a success.

The enrollment plan, One Newark, was created to give parents and students more choice over school assignments. But according to the Associated Press, critics believe the plan has failed to give more students the opportunity to attend better schools in the 43,000-student district. 

The Associated Press reports that community organizers said some parents did follow through with their threats to boycott the first day of school by keeping their children at home. In addition to dismantling the enrollment plan, a story in the Star-Ledger said protest organizers want to return the state-run district back to a locally-elected board. Organizers said as the boycott continues into next week, more students would attend so-called Freedom Schools, which were staffed by retired teachers in a church and a community center.

"The boycott today has been an overwhelming success," Jitu Brown, the national director of Journey for Justice, a coalition of community organizations, told the Star-Ledger. "Parents are voting with their feet."

But Anderson told the Associated Press that she did not see any high levels of absenteeism in the schools she visited Thursday.

While acknowledging the "kinks" in the enrollment plan, Anderson said that with only 20 of the city's 100 schools considered desirable, parents are bound to be frustrated. Still, in the story, she said the plan would give more students equal opportunities to attend higher-performing schools in the future.

Some parents, however, were more preoccupied with the transportation troubles the plan caused this week. The Star-Ledger reported that the district started a new bus service for the roughly 3,800 students who were assigned to a new school under the plan. According to the story, parents complained about late buses and lack of information about bus routes.

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