Enroll your student now for best shot at schools 

We are fast approaching an important day for San Francisco families: Applications for next school year are due Jan. 21. In the San Francisco Unified School District, we have a choice-based enrollment system, which means families have the opportunity to choose which public schools they would like their children to attend.

Because this is different than the way a lot of us adults got placed at schools, I get a lot of questions about our application process. Here are answers to some of these questions:

Anyone can enroll in a public school anytime and get a spot. Why is the deadline such a big deal? Submitting your application on or before Jan. 21 (Round 1) means you have the best chance to get one of the schools you choose. When you turn in your application by Jan. 21, you’ll receive notification of your child’s assigned school by March 14. It also means you are able to amend your choice or make an appeal if you decide you do not want the school to which your student is initially assigned.

If my child is going into sixth grade and I want his or her feeder middle school, do I still need to apply? Every elementary school now has what is called a feeder middle school. While admitting students to their feeder middle schools is a priority, assignment to middle school is not automatic, nor is it guaranteed. On the application, families must indicate any and all middle schools they are applying to, including their feeder school if it is their choice. When families select their feeder school as their top choice, the system will prioritize placing the student into his or her feeder school.

How many families get a school of their choice? We aim to give every family one of their choices, but schools that receive a lot of requests can be more difficult to get into, even during Round 1. Last year, 80 percent of families in grades K-12 who applied by the Round 1 deadline received one of their school choices. For those entering kindergarten, 85 percent received one of their choices.

I encourage you to not just rely on word of mouth. I visit our schools every week — some of them you’ve probably never heard of — and I see the same excellent teaching and learning going on at these lesser-known schools, too. That’s why we urge families to tour schools to see firsthand and to choose several schools on their applications.

Why do some families not get any of their choices? Each year, elementary schools with great reputations among parents can have as many as 1,000 applicants who list that school as a first choice. That’s 50 applicants for every one seat available. So you can imagine that not every applicant will get one of those seats.

For those schools with more applications than there are spaces available, we use a system of tiebreakers, including whether siblings already attend the school, whether a student lives in an area of The City with low average test scores and whether a student lives in the choice school’s attendance area, as well as other factors all carefully considered by the Board of Education.

What if I miss the Jan. 21 deadline? My first piece of advice: Don’t miss it! Of course, there are families who move to The City after the deadline, or have other circumstances that keep them from making the Round 1 deadline. Our staff works to accommodate their needs, but the number of schools with available spaces shrinks after Round 1.

What if I still have questions? We are here to help. If you would like some help, call or visit our Educational Placement Center at (415) 241-6085 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. You can also find more information at www.sfusd.edu/enroll.

Watch the calendar

Some key dates for SFUSD enrollment:

Jan 21: Application deadline for Round 1

March 14: Round 1 notification

March 17-28, April 7-11: Enroll by registering at assigned school site

April 11: Deadline to register at sites, submit amended forms, appeals and late applications for Round 2

Source: SFUSD

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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