Parents will have an opportunity to learn more about their children's educations at the annual San Francisco Unified School District Enrollment Fair on Saturday.

SFUSD Enrollment Fair gives parents jump-start on choosing schools

Parents, it seems hard to believe, but it's time to consider where your child is going to school next year. If yours will be entering transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth grade or ninth grade, you have a lot of options here in San Francisco's public schools.

Where to start? The annual San Francisco Unified School District Enrollment Fair.

This coming Saturday, thousands of families will converge on John O'Connell High School to learn about all of our schools in one place. Take advantage of this day to meet principals, talk to other parents and ask all kinds of questions. We do this fair every year, and it's really wonderful seeing all of our unique school communities together in one place.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when you go:

Neighborhood preference for elementary school parents

Most elementary schools have geographic borders, called attendance areas, drawn around them. We don't have this for middle or high schools. The SFUSD created attendance areas to help you get a spot in a school near your home if you would like. You are not required to enroll at your attendance-area school, but you have an advantage if you choose to. It's interesting to note that only about 25 percent of families list their attendance area school among their top choices.

Continuity for middle schoolers

In late October, all currently enrolled SFUSD fifth-graders in elementary schools will receive a preprinted application that will show their middle school feeder, which is the school matched up with their current elementary school.

This option is one way students can continue on to middle school with classmates from fifth grade, and parents can have an added peace of mind. All you need to do is include that school on your list of choices and you'll have a higher priority for getting into the school if you choose it.

You can still list any number of school choices and programs on your application.

Discover and apply

So, the one-stop, all-school Enrollment Fair is where you start. But don't stop there. We open our school doors for tours. Go and get a feel for the school, meet some parents whose kids go there and ask more questions.

You have time

Right now, you have lots of time to discover the schools that fit your child best. The deadline to get your application form in to our Educational Placement Center is Jan. 16, 2015.

… but be on time

I know some parents worry about getting the school they want. The odds of getting a school you want dramatically increase if you get your application in on time. With an on-time application, you have an 80 percent chance of getting one of your chosen schools.

See you at the fair.

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

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