Where San Francisco students go to middle school up for debate 

Where students attend middle school is poised to become a fight as district officials start work toward an enrollment program.

Under the old enrollment process in the San Francisco Unified School District, students and parents had to enter a lottery system for middle school just like they had done years earlier for elementary schools.

A new enrollment process, approved in March by the Board of Education, more heavily weighs where a student lives during the elementary school selection. And it allows for all the students at primary schools to have a guaranteed spot at a middle school. The elementary school-to-middle school flow is called a pathway.

Pathways are part of the neighborhood model the district is implementing in its new student assignment policy currently under way. Applications for elementary school selections are due Feb. 18.

The middle school feeder patterns were originally introduced in August, along with neighborhood boundaries, but were delayed because parents were concerned about some of the recommendations.

Other parents, however, want to totally revamp the assignment process.

A group of parents, known as San Francisco Students First, is beginning to ramp up efforts to pass an initiative to encourage the district to solely assign children to neighborhood schools. The initiative — an advisory measure that would strongly suggest the district allow students to go to class closer to home — is on the November ballot.

Creating neighborhood schools is one avenue to fix the district and increase parent involvement, according to parent and member of Students First Omar Khalif, who ran for the school board.

“We need to go back to how we used to do it,” he said. “Now we’re doing musical chairs and shuffling kids.”

Khalif said if the initiative passes in November, and the school district focuses more on the quality of education rather than diversity and test scores, then parents will not be concerned about sending their child to any school in the district.

Board of Education President Hydra Mendoza said she thinks the district is already heading in the direction parents want with already-implemented changes.

In the district’s policy, a student’s address plays a role in tie-breaking applications, behind sibling preference and test scores.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education will discuss the progress of creating pathways to middle schools, according to Mendoza. No vote is scheduled. The pathways are expected to be implemented in the 2012-13 school year once approved.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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