Happy New Year! 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.
Applications for the 2019-2020 school year are due on Friday, Jan. 11.
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 than 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 January deadline such a big deal?
A: Submitting your application on or before January 11 means you have the best chance to get one of the schools you choose. It also means you will have time later to change your choice or make an appeal.
If you turn in your application by Jan. 11, you’ll receive notification of your child’s assigned school in the middle of March. After the Jan. 11 deadline, there are fewer schools with openings so it will narrow down your choices.
Q: How many families get a school of their choice?
A: The trend most years is that around 80 percent of families in grades K-12 who apply by the January deadline receive one of their school choices. For those entering kindergarten, more than 85 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.
To assign students at these high demand schools, 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.
Q: I want my child to go to his “feeder middle school” next year. Do I still need to apply?
A: While admitting students to their feeder middle school is a priority, assignment to middle school is not automatic. On the application, you must indicate any and all middle schools you are applying to – including your feeder school if it is one of your choices. If you select your child’s feeder middle school as your number one choice, there is a strong likelihood that your child will be assigned to that school.
Q: What if I miss the Jan. 11 deadline?
A: My advice … don’t miss it! But if you do, your application is welcome anytime. It’s just that your choices get slimmer after this important deadline.
Q: What if I still have questions?
A: We are here to help. If you would like some help, call or visit our Educational Placement Center (EPC) at 241-6085 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. You can also find more information at sfusd.edu/enroll.
Key Dates for San Francisco Public School Enrollment
Application Deadline – Deadline to submit, cancel, change or update any choices for grades TK-12
Week of March 18
Families who applied by Jan. 11 will receive school offer letters.
Weeks of March 18-22 and April 1-5
Families must register students at assigned school to hold a place.
Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.