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What to consider when visiting schools

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If your child is starting kindergarten, sixth grade or ninth grade next year, you’re probably thinking about your school options. The good news is you can apply to as many San Francisco public schools as you want.

One valuable way to learn about our schools is to go on a school tour. Not sure what to look for when you visit a school? Here are a few easy tips:

Logistics

Before you even head out to a school to visit, consider the basics. How far is it from home or work? How will your child get to school each day? Does the start and end time work for your family’s schedule? Do you need an afterschool program at the same school?

Plan ahead

Some schools have drop-in tours, others have scheduled times. Check the school’s website for tour information. Don’t see it? Feel free to call the school.

Show and tell

When you get there, a school’s academics and culture should literally be written on the walls. Take a look at artwork, data charts, poetry — even how teachers’ names are displayed. Some of our teachers include their college alma mater next to their name as a way to remind students that they, too, are college-bound.

Ask

When you talk with the principal, parent tour guides or teachers, ask them what they like about their school. If they talk about things that you want for your child, then you are well on your way to having a good match. And please, if you’ve heard the school has challenges, go ahead and ask directly about them. It’s so much better to hear from school staff about how issues are being addressed than to rely on rumors.

In the classroom

If you have the opportunity to observe a classroom — which may or may not be possible on your tour — notice what students are doing. It can sometimes look chaotic and noisy with small groups of students doing different activities. Or it may sometimes look like everyone listening to the teacher. Either way, upon close inspection, you should be able to see if each child is participating in his or her learning. That’s the most important thing.

Our application process

The deadline to submit your San Francisco Unified School District application for the 2017-18 school year is Jan. 13, 2017. Turning it in on time gives you the best chance of being admitted to one the schools you choose. It also means you are able to amend your choice or appeal during the following application round, if you decide you do not want the school that you received in the first round.

To learn more, visit sfusd.org/enroll. We look forward to seeing you on a school tour!

Myong Leigh is interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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