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April Thomas enrolls her son with Deborah Louis-Ake, who leads the main district's special education placement at the Children's  Museum in Detroit.

April Thomas enrolls her son with Deborah Louis-Ake, who leads the main district’s special education placement at the Children’s Museum in Detroit.

Kimberly Hayes Taylor

The Detroit district tries inviting families to enroll during spring break. Parents are trickling in.

Detroit’s main district is experimenting with ways to get more students to commit for the 2018-19 school year, so it hosted its first pop-up enrollment center this week at the Detroit Children’s Museum.

But so far, not many parents are showing up.

Usually, parents have to go to multiple locations to register their children for school, especially if they have special needs. This is the first time the district has offered a one-stop shop, where immunizations, vision, hearing, and lead screenings are being offered for free. Besides that, parents can register for the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, and other services.

The low turnout reflects the challenges Detroit schools — the district and charters — face as they try to convince parents to think about enrollment earlier in the year. Although it’s easier for schools to plan if they know how many children to expect on the first day of school, Detroit parents don’t often think about enrollment until August or even September.

The enrollment event is one way to encourage parents to register early.

Although the fair was held during spring break, when many parents are out of town on vacation, the district hosted the event to see how it would work, said Crystal Wilson, district spokeswoman.

The district also is hosting other student enrollment events this spring, including the Level Up High School Expo from 10-2 on April 21 at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.

“Kicking off a robust enrollment season is critical to the district’s transformation work,” Wilson said.

April Thomas came to register her 11-year-old son, whom she plans to pull out of a suburban middle school as early as next week. Her son is high on the autistic spectrum and she said he’s not performing well academically because his needs are not being met.

“He’s not where he’s supposed to be,” she said. “Where he is right now, it’s just stagnant. As far as his grade level and what he’s supposed to know, I feel like it’s not up to par. He needs a better education.”

She plans to send him to the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School, where he will join his sister, 4. Thomas said she withdrew her daughter from a suburban school because she wasn’t pleased with the school’s early education teaching model.

The event will continue at the Detroit Children’s Museum from 10-5 Thursday and Friday, when parents who register will receive free books to read to their children.