Gianna and Kaitlyn Lee are 5-year-old twins whose mother died of cancer three years ago. They are being raised by their 68-year-old grandfather, C.K. Cheung, in the Sunset district, where they started kindergarten this school year.
But thanks to the San Francisco Unified School District’s elusive student-assignment system — which contorts parental choice through a maze of ranking, lottery and tiebreaker rounds — Gianna and Kaitlyn are attending schools some 3 miles apart at opposite ends of 19th Avenue.
This means Chueng is stuck behind the wheel of his Toyota minivan for hours every school day ferrying the grandchildren between Commodore Sloat Elementary School and Alice Fong Yu Alternative School. A dedicated primary caregiver, he also tries his best to participate in the parent association activities at each school — although meetings at Sloat and Alice Fong Yu often conflict.
Surely there is nothing about this situation that would make the least bit of sense to anyone not locked into a totally bureaucratic mindset.
SFUSD officials have explanations that attempt to sound reasonable. “If families are dissatisfied with their first assignments, they can try again in follow-up rounds … Twins are only separated if parents decline to enroll them in an underperforming school not on their list of choices.”
Therefore, if you are a parents of twins or other multiples you must accept a lower standard school to keep your children together?
The San Francisco Examiner routinely greets the start of every school year with reports of the latest round of assignment horror stories. Unfortunately, twins or multiple-birth siblings being sent to different schools are not at all uncommon, according to advocacy groups such as Parents for Public Schools.
At a time when San Francisco claims it wants to keep families in The City, this type of bureaucratic nightmare is exactly what drives families out. The City’s school bosses need to remember they are there to educate children without causing unnecessary hardship to the families.
They should not be thoughtlessly breaking up pairs of twins just to simplify headquarters paperwork. There aren’t all that many twins within the district; let them attend school together if that is the family’s choice.