Even though it’s only January, it’s time to start thinking about August.
Why? Because the deadline to apply to San Francisco’s public schools for the next school year is fast approaching.
I know families have a lot of questions about what school will look like next fall. I can assure you we will be here providing instruction one way or another and I encourage you to apply to explore your options and apply on time.
Here in San Francisco, 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.
This is different from how it worked back when a lot of us were kids, so I get questions about it. Here are some of them.
Q: Everyone can go to public schools. Why is the February deadline such a big deal?
A: Submitting your application on or before Feb. 5 (which we call the Main Round) means you have the best chance to get one of the schools you choose. You will have time later to change your choice.
If you turn in your application by Feb. 5, you’ll receive notification of your child’s assigned school by the end of March. After the Feb. 5 (Main Round) deadline, there are fewer schools with openings so it will narrow down your choices. Schools that are still available after the Main Round may be far from your home, or not have the programs you might like your child to participate in.
Q: How many families get a school of their choice?
A: The trend most years is that around 88 percent of families in grades TK-12 who apply by the Main Round deadline receive one of their school choices. For those entering kindergarten, more than 88 percent receive one of their choices.
Q: Why do some families not get any of their choices?
A: The majority of families get one of the schools they list as their top three. But every year, a few of our schools get as many as a thousand applicants who list that school as a first choice. That can equal 50 students applying for every one seat available. So you can see why not every applicant can get one of those seats. Families who do not submit an application during the Main Round are less likely to get one of their choices.
To assign students when there are more applicants than available seats, we use a system of tie-breakers. These are things like whether a sibling already attends the school, whether or not a student lives in an area of The City with low average test scores, whether or not a student lives in the school’s attendance area — and other factors all carefully considered by the Board of Education to make the system as equitable and fair as possible while still allowing families a choice.
If you are wondering how to get a school of your choice – the best thing to do is consider schools that may be a great fit for your child that are less in demand. Another important step is to list several choices that will work for you and your family.
To learn more about all our schools, including the schools closest to you, please use our School Finder tool at sfusd.edu/schoolfinder. You can also browse short videos of our schools on our YouTube page at bit.ly/SFUSDschoolvideos.
Q: What if I miss the Feb. 5 deadline?
A: My advice … don’t miss it! But if you do, your application is welcome anytime. It’s just that you might have fewer choices after this important deadline.
Q. Will the proposed changes to the student assignment policy affect me?
A. We are currently revisiting our policy for how elementary school students are assigned to public schools. This won’t affect families applying to schools for next fall but it may change things in future years. For more information about this, please visit sfusd.edu/studentassignment.
Q: What if I still have questions?
A: We are here to help. If you would like help, call our Educational Placement Center at (415) 241-6085 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. You can also schedule a phone appointment using our online system at calendly.com/sfusdepc. For more information, visit sfusd.edu/schools/enroll.
Key dates for San Francisco public schools enrollment
Feb. 5, 2021
Main Round Application Deadline: Deadline to submit, cancel, change or update any choices for grades TK-12
Week of March 22, 2021
School offer letters mailed to families who applied by Feb. 5, 2021
April 9, 2021
Last day to accept or decline Main Round school offer
May 7, 2021
Round 2 Application Deadline: Deadline to submit, cancel, change or update any choices for grades TK-12 if you missed the Main Round or are not happy with your Main Round assignment
Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist