Tent City Grows as Optional School Enrollment Nears

Tent City Grows as Optional School Enrollment Nears

Most parents would do anything for their kids, and hundreds of Shelby County parents proved it by camping out in cold weather for days to make sure their kids get into the optional school of their choice.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Most parents would do anything for their kids, and hundreds of Shelby County parents proved it by camping out in cold weather for days to make sure their kids get into the optional school of their choice.

The tents started going up on Thursday, January 17; by Monday afternoon they completely surrounded the Midtown grounds of the Board of Education.

Parents were making sure they got the applications that they say are key to a better education. The days passed slowly, but attitudes remained positive.

“It’s the last night,” said Ram Achanta, “we are counting down.”

Who could blame them? Lots of parents were living in a tent city for days in an effort to tailor their kid's education at one of 45 optional schools.

“It’s a little crazy.” Leslie Jason told abc24.com.

“It’s worth it though,” said Keenan Hilson, “I've got a great son, very smart.”

One school at the top of many parent's lists is White Station Middle School.

“We just really like the program and the excellence they pursue.” Jill Dyson told abc24.com.

“The quality of the education is great,” said Jason, “the variety of classes and the teachers are wonderful.”

Even though the payoff is great, getting there was not easy.

“It’s been a long, cold weekend.” said Hilson.

“It’s been interesting—and cold.” Dyson said.

But, the tent city parents improvised and adapted.

“We got the flat screen and the satellite dish to the side,” Dyson told abc24.com, “my husband wanted to watch the game.”

Game or no game, hot meals were at a premium, which is where Square Meals on Wheels came in.

"What we have here is comfort food for people camping out all weekend.” said food truck operator, Derrick Clark.

Food? Check. Satellite TV? Check. Now, could somebody design a better system?

“They could go to a lottery,” Jason told abc24.com, “but I’m not sure we would all like that.”

“There should be a better way,” said Achanta, “but based on the school itself and what it offers I feel it’s worth it.”

Optional school applications went out early on Tuesday, January 22; the school district begins accepting completed applications on January 25.
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