Consider these criteria when selecting child’s next school

Wow, it's November already. I know it's hard to believe, but it's time for thousands of families and students to check out the schools they may want their children to attend next year.

We kicked off what we in the San Francisco Unified School District call enrollment season a few weeks ago at the annual Enrollment Fair, where thousands of people gathered on a Saturday to do some one-stop shopping for schools.

And now, if you're considering schools, I encourage you to go on some school tours. Here are some things I suggest you to look for:

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 mater next to their name as a way to remind students that we are a college-bound culture).

Ask: When you talk with the principal or parent tour guides, 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.

The classroom: Look at whether or not 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 is listening to the teacher. Either way, upon close inspection, you should be able to see whether or not each child is participating in his or her learning.

Personally, I love visiting schools and I'm confident that you will, too. There are more than a hundred unique public schools in San Francisco.

WILLIE BROWN JR. MIDDLE SCHOOL

There's one school I'm particularly excited about that is so new that you can't even tour it yet. Willie Brown Jr. Middle School is in its final phases of construction, so unfortunately it's still hard hats only over there.

But let me take you on a virtual tour.

Head to the corner of Silver and Revere avenues and look up to a three-story, gorgeous glass building.

You open the front door and walk into the office greeted with smiles. You walk up a welcoming staircase to the second floor, past the open, sunny atrium in front of the digital library and then down the hallway to a modern, flexible classroom where sixth-grade students are meeting with their advisory teachers who will help guide their personalized learning plan for the next three years.

To the left, there is a full digital-media lab with headphones and speakers where students are learning to create music digitally. Across the way on your right is a makerspace, where another group of students is solving problems with materials and protoypes. Their teachers share that they will be presenting their process to a panel of peers in a week.

Willie Brown Middle School is the result of a lot of community input and a lot of expertise. From parents, to neighbors, to educators, to architects — everybody had a say in what they wanted for this new school in the Bayview.

They asked for and we are delivering state-of-the-art technology for students; amped up full-scale science labs; arts, health and nutrition classes; sports; and a full array of mental and physical health support, too.

If you're lucky enough to have a kid who is going into the sixth grade next fall, you'll want to learn more about it (see below for workshop and other resources). We're signing up sixth-graders only for next year, and will grow the school to a full grades 6-8 over the next three years.

DISCOVER OUR SCHOOLS

Whether you are aiming for our newest middle school or another school, I encourage you to consider schools you have never heard of before along with those your friends talk about. You'll discover some really amazing places.

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

Selecting a school

– Deadline to submit enrollment application: Jan. 16 (Lowell and School of the Arts have earlier deadlines)

– Willie Brown Jr. Middle School workshop: Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon, Thurgood Marshall High School, 45 Conkling St.

– More info: Learn more at www.sfusd.edu/enroll

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