A few simple questions can steer you to right school

This Saturday, thousands of families will converge on the Concourse Exhibition Center, where they can meet representatives from all of our public schools in one place. You can take advantage of this day to meet principals, talk to other parents and ask all kinds of questions.

In addition to attending the enrollment fair, if you are considering where to send your child to school, I encourage you to tour our schools in November and December.

I'm lucky enough to visit schools every week. I've been an educator for more than 20 years and my own kids attend our public schools. So you could say I have some opinions about what to look for.

Here are some things worth considering when you tour schools:

First, logistics: Before you even head out for a visit, think about logistics. Where is the school located? 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 after-school program at the same school?

Show and tell: Sometimes a school's academics and culture are literally written on the walls for you. Take a close look at artwork, test-data charts, poetry, even how the teachers' names are displayed. (Some of our teachers include their college alma maters next to their names as a way to remind students that we are a college-bound culture).

Ask: When you talk with a principal, parent tour guides or teachers, ask them what they like about the school. If they talk about things that you want for your child, then you are well on your way to finding a good match. 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 problems are being addressed than to rely on rumor.

The classroom: If you have the opportunity to observe in a classroom, which may or may not be possible on your scheduled tour, look at whether students are engaged — this can sometimes look chaotic and noisy with small groups of children doing different activities throughout the room, and it may sometimes look like everyone listening to the teacher. Either way, upon close inspection you should be able to see whether each child is participating in his or her learning.

I could go on. I love visiting schools and I'm confident that you will, too. There are more than a hundred unique public schools in San Francisco. Come see for yourself!

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

SFUSD Enrollment Fair

When: Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Where: Concourse Exhibition Center, 620 Seventh St., S.F.

Notable:

— Deadline to submit enrollment application form: Jan. 21

— Learn more at www.sfusd.edu/enroll

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