K-12 Enrollment K-readiness

Don’t Freak Out! Your Kindergartener Will Get into a GREAT Public School!

This post was written on March, 2015. By now a new round of prospective parents are looking at kindergartens. For that reason, I’ve updated it with current enrollment information. Please share with other future SFUSD parents!

SFUSD Enrollment season is upon us! This coming spring, letters go out to students and families informing them of which schools they can enroll in this fall. Now that my girls are well beyond kindergarten, I’m happy to leave that anxiety behind, however I know there are some parents out there currently feeling it. They say, “Hindsight is 20-20,” and with that in mind, I’d like to provide some solace with perspective during this anxious and exciting time.

The Good News: Most people get their school of choice!

Based on a report put out by SFUSD’s Educational Placement Center (EPC), for the March 20th 2017 Round 1 Assignment Run, 86% of kindergarten applicants received one of their choices, and 61% of applicants received their first choice school. (If you are interested in seeing more districts enrollment reports, go here.)

The Other Good News: If you don’t get your first choice, you can re-apply!

Parents can participate in a 2nd and 3rd round to try to get into a school of choice. If you need more information on this process, contact: SFUSD EPC. Also, Parents for Public Schools is a great resource. (See info below re: important dates, events, and links.)

But wait, there’s MORE: There are lots of GREAT elementary schools that you haven’t heard of!  

Did you know: there are 70 elementary schools in SFUSD? Many parents have heard the names: Claire Lillienthal, Clarendon, Rooftop… But how about Yick Wo, Spring Valley, or John Yehall Chin? (My girls went to Jean Parker and we felt it was the BEST SCHOOL IN THE CITY!) There are AMAZING schools in every neighborhood that you may not know but, I know many of the parents couldn’t be happier at the other unknowns.

Ponder this, based on a 2017 enrollment report, of the 4,593 kindergarten applications SFUSD received in Round 1 last year, there were 2,330 requests for Clarendon. That’s over 50% of all applications! But since parents have only heard of a few schools, this is understandable.  Some even fear they’ll pick a “bad one.” This issue is so prevalent that according to the district’s 2017 report, of the district’s 70 elementary schools:

  • 16% of applicants listed just one choice on their application
  • 25% listed three or fewer choices

As you can see, if everyone picks the same 17 schools, there just won’t be space for everyone. And, as I said before, just because a school doesn’t have a lot of name recognition doesn’t mean it’s not a perfect fit your kid. Venture out, it’s really okay. Find an alternative school of choice that fits your child.

There is a lot of movement on the first 10 days of school.

During the first ten days, the district does what it calls a “ten day count” in which schools take note of students who are absent. If a student doesn’t show up to school in one of the first ten days, they are dropped from enrollment. Who knows why students don’t show up, but things happen such as families move, choose private schools, and viola! Spaces open up.  So have no fear, during the first few months of Kindergarten it’s a music chairs of sorts. Thus, no big deal if your child starts school at one site and transfers in a week or so. Though it sounds stressful, many families do it and are happy with the result. I know several families that have transferred between schools even after several years, and everyone is happy! Read their stories here.

School of Choice: Important Dates to Keep in Mind

This helpful information comes from Parents for Public Schools (PPS-SF) and the SFUSD Enrollment site.

  • Friday, January 12, 2018 – Turn in your application paperwork for students in grades TK-12 to apply for 2018-19 (except for Lowell and Ruth Asawa School of the Arts HS, which is earlier). This is also your deadline to cancel, change or update any choices.
  • Friday, March 16 – Round 1 offer letters go out. Many will be received this Saturday or Monday. If do not receive your offer letter by then, wait until Wednesday, March 19, and then go to the Educational Placement Center, 555 Franklin Street, to get a duplicate copy of your offer letter. (Do not go before Wednesday.)
  • TBD. – Attend a Parents For Public Schools Workshop on Navigating Round 2 and Beyond. Register for this event here. PPS-SF members will share information on the 2nd round enrollment process and provide advice from parents who have gone through it before.
  • March 19-23, & April 2-6, 2018 – Register at your offered school or you could lose your seat. This is very important as I had a friend who decided to accept his 2nd choice school but forgot to register. He almost found himself with NO choice! This is from the SFUSD website: “After the initial placement offer, we recommend that you register to secure enrollment at the school site.  Even if you accept a placement offer, you can still choose to seek a higher choice school during any placement or waiting pool period.  In order to secure enrollment, you must go to the school and register by bringing your placement letter and proofs of birth and residency by the deadline date stated on the letter.  You can read more here.”
  • Friday May 8, 2014 – Round 2 offer letters go out. If a new assignment is received, it will replace the current school assignment. There will be no option to keep your previous assignment.
  • For more key dates click here.

For further reading…

Do you have a question or concern about getting into a Kindergarten school of choice? Or do you have some advice for parents worried about enrollment? Please share it in the comments below.

If you found this post informative, can you please share it? Thank you!

18 thoughts on “Don’t Freak Out! Your Kindergartener Will Get into a GREAT Public School!

  1. “80% of applicants (11,525) received one of their choices, and 60% of applicants (8,506) received their first choice school”

    So, 1 in 5 do not receive one of their choices, and we call this good?

    Moreover, for most people, the odds are vastly worse than this.

    This is because most who are getting their selections are people who have a sibling in the school already or who live in CTIP1.

    If you don’t have one of those preferences, it’s guaranteed that your odds are MUCH worse than this. Most estimates are that you have a 20% shot of getting your #1 and a 50% chance of getting no school at all.

    It’s impossible to say for sure, of course, because SFUSD won’t release the actual numbers. Because doing so would reveal how broken and unfair the system really is.

    1. THIS. Just because someone gets their first choice doesn’t mean they’re getting a good school. Less affluent families are circumscribed by transportation and childcare, so their first choice might be their AA school even if it’s crappy. Nevermind the resources it takes to engage in the whole touring process.

      So, subtracting siblings, CTIP1, and anyone who doesn’t have the privledge of travelling to a school with engaged parents and ample funding…what are the odds?

      I’m tired of all the rah-rah “You’ll get a great school.” Yes, there are more good schools than just Clarendon and the handful of trophy schools. But there are still dozens of families fighting for every seat.

      1. Thanks for commenting. I can only speak to MY experience the the experience of my “peers” in the neighborhood (the North side) where there are a LOT of really great schools: Garfield, Gordon Lau, Spring Valley and my girls’ school Spring Valley. These are IN ADDITION to more highly sought after schools in our neighborhood like Yick Wo and Sherman. If you are willing to be open (and yes, depending on your neighborhood and transit options) I really do believe there are many great options.

  2. Historical demand data used to be available from SFUSD. (The page won’t load right now, so I can’t vouch that it is up at this very moment.) For many schools, there has been a 100% chance of K assignment. I know that’s the case for my daughter’s school – Lafayette – which is outstanding by every quantitative and qualitative assessment I’ve seen.

    The assignment system is not perfect. I call it the parent torture system. Still, this is the cost of any school choice scheme. There is no way to provide both choice and certainty to all families.

    It’s also important to not overstate available choices. Is there really any choice without transportation? Muni is not a viable option for kindergarten. Even if I was ok putting my 5 year old on Muni alone, I’d probably lose custody if I did (or worse).

    1. I agree that no “parent choice” system can be perfect. And there will always be disagreement on both sides based on experience (e.g. if you get your 1st choice 1st round vs. you don’t get any choices.) That said, I think we can all agree that the EXPERIENCE could be DRASTICALLY improved with more communication and better “customer service” from the District EPC. Much of the negative comments I hear don’t just center around whether parents ultimately get their school of choice. Much of the negative comments focus on the negative experience of applying to our schools. No matter what, we could do a lot to improve our “customer relations” in this regard.

  3. I love the positive attitude of this blog but school started yesterday and my 5-year-old is home with our nanny due to the wait pool process. We were assigned a school in the Tenderloin which we declined. So we’re just waiting to get into our wait pool school. This process has been, and still is, horribly stressful.

    1. I am so sorry to hear this. I didn’t have to go through this process as I selected a school that was not a highly sought after school. Nonetheless, I know how stressful it is when your kids are little and you want them to have a great “first school” experience. I’m not sure what schools you selected, but I’d encourage you to consider schools that may not have been on your list that may have openings. I actually made friends with a family who were assigned to my daughters’ school and had originally placed Spring Valley as a priority. They ended up getting their preferred school one week later. We’ve stayed in touch. Their daughter acclimated to the new school just fine. Feel free to connect offline and I’m happy to help in any way I can. And, just know, during the first two weeks there is a lot of movement. Your child isn’t missing out on any BIG curriculum or making long term friends.

    2. Our story is the same as yours; no school to attend, no first day with all the other kids. I feel my child has been robbed of a really special memory, I have also been robbed of a really special memory. We did everything we were supposed to do and SFUSD hasn’t come through for us. Assigning my daughter to an extremely poor performing school far from our home is unacceptable. The part of the process that makes me really mad is that the people that get good schools still get to gum up the waiting pools, we should be made to say a firm ‘yes’ or a firm ‘no’ to the assigned schools. Saying yes to a school and being able to go on a wait list at the same time is what is causing all the stress and delay for the families that really need a school. This process has left me bitter, no amount of cheerleading will make me feel warm and fuzzy towards SFUSD.

      1. I am so sorry to hear how difficult this has been for you. Based on your comment and the previous comment, I went online to the SFUSD website to see enrollment statistics to get a sense of the Big Picture. Even though 60% of kindergarten applicants got their first choice and and 87% of kindergarten applicants got one of their choices, that still leaves a considerable amount of parents unhappy.

        Thinking about this, I realize that this has a lot to do with our “choice” system, which ends up with some schools get more applicants and some parents NOT getting schools they put high on their list. (Clarendon for example had 97 applicants per seat!)

        If you are able to wait it out because the school on your wait list is a school you LOVE then I encourage you to do so. I know several families that were placed at Jean Parker ES my daughters’ kindergarten year who moved during the first two weeks (one to Sherman with TWINS!) and the other to Spring Valley. I even hear reports for families that have moved mid-year or even several years later and their children are happy well adjusted kids!

        That said, if you placed a LOT of high choice schools on your list, that might explain why you didn’t get one of your choice schools. (I chose Jean Parker ES, a GREAT neighborhood school with little visibility, and didn’t have a problem getting in.) With this in mind, I would also encourage you to consider other schools that may not originally have been on your list. Email me offline and I’m more than happy to help you connect you with resources. Best of luck!

        1. We were assigned a low performing school not close to home too. We thought with four more rounds there would be movement (that’s what everyone tells you). For round 2 we submitted all the same schools as round 1 (any of them would be better than what we were assigned) and still got the same school. Here it is the 10th day of school and we have had zero alternate choices!! We have friends who got something on their list and just got an even higher choice school while on the wait pool. Seriously, we get nothing?! We sat at the district office on Monday for 3 hours and they have no explanation other than to wait. It’s so frustrating. SFUSD has failed us.

          1. I’m so sorry to hear that. With the choice system currently in place, it seems there is just no way around some parents feeling like they get the short end of the stick. Assigning parents to neighborhood school (like when we were kids) would give every parent certainty. But I don’t think parents would want that either. I am wondering if it would be helpful if families were asked to pick no more than 3 or 4 “high choice” schools on their list. That might take some of the burden off of them and help set parent expectations at the outset.

            Thanks for sharing your story.

    3. Wow! As a total outsider who just likes this blog (I’m from the DC area), it’s amazing to me that the school district is allowed to have a wait pool for Kindergarten (or any grade for that matter). Even if the parent declines the first “assignment”, it seems that there should be an expectation that all kids be at school on the first day and if they decline an “assignment” that they must appear at ???? their neighborhood school? This just seems like it could cause all sorts of unintended ramifications down the road and sets a horrible precedent to parents and students alike.Not to mention the poor teachers trying to get a class settled in – sounds like the first two to three weeks of Kindergarten are basically lost across the district – what a huge waste of opportunity.
      Just my humble, outsider’s opinion

      1. Great points! I’m not an enrollment expert, but this DOES seem to cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. I think there may be a 3 day count to purge no-shows, but I’m not sure re: specifics. Worth checking in on.

  4. I am going through this process currently. We were placed in a terrible school and district not on our list, our son was not accepted to any of 5 private schools we applied to. The amount of undo stress this is causing my family is absolutely unacceptable. To have the next 5 months completely in limbo hoping for a better alternative is absolutely unacceptable. To have 5 neighborhood schools ranked 9/10 and not be able to have a guaranteed spot at any of them is absolutely unacceptable. No parent should have to ensure this for kindergarten!!!

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