More families applied to San Francisco public schools this year than last, a welcome improvement for a district that has struggled for years with declining enrollment. With more competition for preferred schools, however, a smaller percentage of parents received one of their application choices, according to data released by the district Friday.
A total of 13,250 applications were submitted for the 2008-09 school year, a 308-person increase from the first-round applications submitted in 2007-08, San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.
In contrast to the increase in applicants was the drop in the percentage of families that received one of their school choices, from 87 percent to 82 percent, the lowest mark since 2005. The district allows parents to apply for up to seven ranked school choices.
Sixty-three percent of students were enrolled in their first-choice school, according to the district, down from 67 percent last year. Letters announcing school assignments are expected to show up in mailboxes starting today.
"It’s a Catch-22," Superintendent Carlos Garcia said. "We’re extremely happy to see more applicants for our public schools, but I’m sure there are some parents disappointed they didn’t get their children into choice schools."
Garcia said an active appeals process, in which school administrators weigh medical and family hardships for prospective students, is an effective tool for families who do not get into a school of choice.
A wider range of schools are attracting parents, Garcia said, noting that 52 schools received 10 or more additional requests than last year. Leonard R. Flynn Elementary had an increase of 150 applicants from 2006-07, and Grattan Elementary, had an additional 157 requests.
Some schools received fewer.
Burton High School in Visitacion Valley had less than half of the requests the school received for 2004-05. The school has had low student achievement on state standardized tests.
District officials said they do not yet know if the increased number of applicants will turn the district’s tide of declining enrollment.
In 1969, SFUSD enrolled more than 90,000 students; the number of students is currently at about 55,000. Declining enrollment also impacts the budget of the district, since it is funded by the state, per pupil.
Vali Govier did not break down three years ago when she found out her daughter Sashi was denied admittance into the family’s preferred school.
Instead, Govier poured all of her time and energy into making sure that Sashi’s new school, Leonard R. Flynn Elementary, would receive the just attention it deserves.
"I really feel that there are so many great public schools in San Francisco," said Govier, who is waiting to hear if her youngest daughter, Rohini, 5, will join Sashi, 8, at Flynn next year.
Located on Cesar Chavez Street, Flynn saw an increase in applicant requests from 217 last year to 367, due in large part to the activist efforts of Govier and other parents.
Nancy Gapasin-Gnass, who has a daughter in the first grade at Flynn Elementary, said marketing campaigns and school tours led by parents helped attract visibility to the school.
"People have this assumption that San Francisco public schools are all bad," Gapasin-Gnass said. "As parents we want to encourage others to take a look and see for themselves that public schools like Flynn have a tremendous amount of resources."