Parents select schools, await fate 

It took three months of touring a dozen of San Francisco’s public kindergarten programs for one mother to narrow her list to the maximum seven elementary schools allowed on the district’s school assignment application. When Melissa Standen-Bloom finally turned it in Wednesday, she soaked up the initial relief.

“I’m just glad the first part is over,” the Bernal Heights mother said after experiencing the district’s placement process — for her 4-year-old son — for the first time. “There is so much information and so many strategies. It just goes on and on.”

Thousands of parents hoping to have some choice in the elementary school, middle school or high school their child attends this fall were expected to turn in their applications by today. Many swarmed San Francisco Unified School District headquarters throughout the week with questions about the complicated process.

Lines sometimes took up to an hour — with 15 counselors and translators on staff — but through most of this week, the wait was about 20 minutes, said Archie Fokin, director of operations at the district’s Educational Placement Center.

The work that went into those pieces of paper took much longer, however. Parents and guardians faced such decisions as whether to keep their child at a neighborhood school or send them to another campus that offers special language-immersion or arts programs, or whether to focus only on schools with higher scores on state standardized tests.

Now Standen-Bloom has to wait, just like about 13,000 other families, until about March 12, when letters will be sent out by the district telling parents whether they received their preferred school assignments.

“It’s just spending so much time and energy, just coming up with a list and then knowing after all that is a lottery,” Standen-Bloom said.

The SFUSD’s student assignment system — which attempts to balance diversity goals with family demands — has long been a source of frustration for many parents. If there are more applications for a school than seats, the applications go through a lottery system that considers a variety of socio-economic factors.

Even if families don’t get any of the schools they listed — and about 20 percent of them didn’t for the current school year, according to the district — they should still register for the school that’s been assigned while they try again in the district’s second placement round, Education Placement Center Executive Director Darlene Lim said.

The district is currently working to make changes to the student assignment system. A meeting on the potential changes is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Francisco Middle School, 2190 Powell St.


Placement process

Key dates to apply for a San Francisco Unified School District school for the 2010-11 school year:

Today: Last day to submit application in Round 1
March 12: Round 1 offers mailed to families
March 19-26: Parents or guardians must register students at schools to accept offers
March 26: Last day to submit an application for participation in Round 2 and last day to submit an appeal, waiting pool and/or amended application
April 30: Round 2 offers mailed to families. Offers are also mailed to Round 1 participants who submitted an amended application and/or waiting pool
May 3-14: Parents or guardians must register students at school to accept Round 2 offers
May 14: Last day to submit appeal, waiting pool and/or amended application to Round 2 participants
May 28: Offers are mailed to Round 2 families who submitted an amended application and/or waiting pool, as well as families who submitted an application between March 29-May 14.
June 1: Open enrollment begins

Source: San Francisco Unified School District

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