By Dr. Vincent Matthews
Happy New Year! Even though it’s only January and we are dealing with a lot, it’s time for parents to start thinking about next August too.
Why? Because the deadline to apply to San Francisco’s public schools for the next school year is fast approaching.
Applications for the 2022-23 school year are due Friday, February 4.
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. You may have heard that we’re in the process of changing our student assignment system for elementary students. I’ll explain more about this later in my column, but for now know that it won’t apply to students in this enrollment cycle.
Our enrollment system is different from 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 February deadline such a big deal?
A: Submitting your application on or before February 4 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 choose to.
If you turn in your application by February 4, you’ll receive notification of your child’s school offer in the middle of March. After the February 4 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: Most years around 80 percent of families in grades TK-12 who apply by the deadline receive one of their top 3 school choices. For those entering kindergarten, that number is also 80 percent.
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 include 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 at least 5 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 offered that school.
Q: What if I miss the February 4 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: I heard the system is changing. When is that happening?
A. No changes will take place until it’s time to apply for the 2024-2025 school year, and this change only applies to new students entering elementary school. Families will have the opportunity to choose public schools within their zones, which will offer 8-12 school choices. You can learn more about this upcoming change at sfusd.edu/newenrollmentpolicy.
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 415-241-6085 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. You can also find more information at sfusd.edu/enroll.
KEY DATES FOR SF PUBLIC SCHOOLS ENROLLMENT
February 4, 2022
Application Deadline - Deadline to submit, cancel, change or update any choices for grades TK-12.
Week of March 21, 2022
Families who applied by February 4, 2022 will receive school offer letters.
April 8, 2022
Families must accept their school offer to hold a place, or decline and apply for a different school.