Thousands of parents, teachers and community members attended the 13th annual Schools Expo hosted by the Urban League of Louisiana's Parent Information Center on Saturday.
The event, which was held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and gave families an opportunity to learn about and apply to 90 different schools, came just days before the first-round deadline for OneApp, the enrollment system used by most of the city's public schools.
Families have until Feb. 22 to apply to the main round of OneApp, which determines the first round of placement.
On Saturday, parents browsed tables with information booklets about public and private schools as children played in bounce houses, ate nachos and cotton candy, and explored activity tables with 3D printers and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) supplies.
Many families also took advantage of the onsite OneApp enrollment center after being attracted to participating schools, according to Amy Granier, who works in the enrollment department at the Orleans Parish School Board.
"Certainly families are taking advantage of the Schools Expo to learn about new schools before submitting their application," Granier said. "And we do have families who have revised existing applications to change their top choices."
Among those parents was Kenymira Jenkins, a stay-at-home mom who planned to put 2-year-old Nyleah and 9-month-old MyKing in early learning centers next year.
Jenkins, 23, said she was applying to Kingsley House, Educare and Catholic Charities after learning more about their programs from the expo.
"You get to see what the different experiences might be at different schools, learn about classroom size, and it just lets you learn more," Jenkins said. "I feel like I'm so new at this, I didn't know anything about these schools, and now I have information."
Some parents said they were happy with the schools their children attend now but had gone for some of the event's other perks, including free school supplies for families who register, a mobile dental clinic and a chance to get discounts on cable television and other amenities.
Others were there to see local school dance teams, marching bands, majorettes, cheerleaders and choirs perform, or to learn about various after-school and summer camp programs offered by the city's FIT NOLA health department, the Tulane Drop-In Center, YouthForce NOLA and other providers.
Last year, about 2,500 people attended the event, according to Arielle McConduit, the vice president of the Urban League of Louisiana's education and youth development program.
She said she expected about the same or maybe slightly fewer attendants this year.
"As more schools come online, more parents might be happy with their options," McConduit said.