NILES -- Tina Sherman and her friend Shelli Harmon stayed up all night with their eighth-grade sons to guarantee spots for them in the Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy.
The academy held a first-come, first-served registration on Saturday, when enrollment applications were accepted at 8 a.m. for the first 50.
Sherman and Harmon and their sons, Kyle and Lucas, arrived at 9:30 p.m. Friday.
"We watched movies and played on the computers. We're kind of delirious from all the caffeine," Sherman said, laughing.
Then she turned serious for a few moments while sitting in line at 7 a.m.
"This is for my son. He's really excited," Sherman said, "and to see your kids excited about school, that means I'll go spend time in line."
Sherman wore a neon green wristband with the No. 2 and Harmon's wristband was No. 3.
School officials opened the building to the waiting parents and students at about 5 a.m. because of inclement weather.
The district is opening New Tech this fall in a selected area at Niles High School. The first year will be for freshmen only.
Kyle Sherman, 13, and Lucas Harmon, 14, were in a room with their future New Tech classmates, laughing and playing games to pass the time. They are currently eighth-graders at Ring Lardner Middle School.
"It's been a long night of waiting, but I'm excited," Kyle said. "You got to do what you got to do. If you come that early, you have to do it for a reason.
"It (New Tech) just seems like a good idea, and I'm excited that there will be more things than the traditional high school."
The heart of the New Tech instructional approach is project-based learning, which fundamentally changes the role of teacher and student, Patrick Malley, dean of New Tech, said.
Lucas said he likes the idea of the project-based learning with more hands-on opportunities.
"It will give us more freedom," Lucas said.
Two subjects will be taught together with two facilitators (the term used instead of teachers) like biology and art, for Bio-Art. Math combines algebra and geometry. American Studies joins U.S. history and English.
"It seems to be an interesting way, like the Bio-Art, and it puts more trust on us by working in groups," Kyle said. "It will help us in the long term by giving us more college credits. I just like the whole idea and it'll be much better for your future."
Sebastian Weber, 14, said he slept a couple of hours before arriving at the building about 3:30 a.m.
"I'm a computer geek and that's my thing. I want to do something different than the same old thing in high school," Sebastian said. "I think the group work will be better. It puts us in more of a work environment with more responsibilities."
Niles Community Schools Superintendent Richard Weigel shook hands and chatted with the parents and students, who filled two hallways inside the building.
"It's great. The parents are very excited. It's a nice crowd," Weigel said. "The parents are so pleased at this opportunity for their children."
Sherman said she's glad that the school district has a new superintendent. (Weigel is in his first school year at Niles.)
"He is improving Niles greatly with lots of changes, very good changes," Sherman said. "He's got a lot of great ideas."
Lucas did have one negative thing to say about Weigel.
"He didn't give us enough snow days, but he's giving us New Tech," Lucas said with a smile.
Malley, the dean, said he was pleased at the turnout.
"It's amazing that kids are lining up for school," Malley said.
And Angie Solloway had a unique term for her arrival at 3:30 a.m. -- Black Friday New Tech.
"If we can do Black Friday for us, we can do this for our own kids," Solloway said, referring to her eighth-grade son, Chris Frantz.
A stratified lottery for the remaining 75 openings will be held if more than 125 applications are submitted, and the deadline is March 17.