After months of touring schools and filling out applications, many San Francisco parents were finally able to relax this week, as their school assignments arrived in the mail.
“I’ve been losing sleep over this for almost the last year,” said Grace Briones, who was relieved to learn Saturday that her daughter would attend Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, one of the highest-performing campuses in the San Francisco Unified School District.
It was the first time that Briones, an engineer who lives in the South of Market neighborhood, has navigated the district’s complex school assignment system.
“It just seemed completely random,” she said. “I think there needs to be more information about how the lottery actually works. It was a very stressful process.”
SFUSD’s assignment system is based on parental choice, but because some schools have as many as 55 applicants for each available seat, the district uses certain tiebreakers. For elementary school, these include whether a student has an older sibling at the school, whether he lives in the school’s “attendance area,” and whether he comes from a part of the city with historically low test scores.
This year, there were almost 400 fewer applications, and the district reported a slight uptick in the number of families receiving their first-choice school.
However, one in five still got none of their listed choices, even though they are allowed to list as many as they desire.
Lili Sirota, who lives in the attendance area for Grattan Elementary, ranked 10 schools on her son Sam’s application, including Grattan. He was assigned to none of them, instead getting Rosa Parks, which is almost three miles from the family’s home.
“My list was not all Clarendons and Rooftops,” she said, referring to the most sought-after schools in the district.
While Sirota said the family would not accept the assignment, private school, which in San Francisco typically costs more than $20,000 a year, is beyond their means.
“I was actually looking at real estate in Burlingame,” said Sirota, who grew up in The City and attended public schools. “It breaks my heart to think of moving to the suburbs.”
4,799 kindergarten applications*
3,252 sixth-grade applications
4,188 ninth-grade applications
80 percent received one of their choice schools
4,931 kindergarten applications
3,131 sixth-grade applications
4,603 ninth-grade applications
78 percent received one of their choice schools
*This year, the state moved the eligibility age for kindergarten from December 1 to November 1, making about 400 children ineligible for kindergarten this year.
Applicants per seat at:
Clarendon Elementary: 55
Rooftop K8: 31
Grattan Elementary: 22
West Portal Elementary: 21
Lawton Alternative: 20