Yesterday morning I met with the program director from Parents for Public Schools. Ellie Rossiter lives in Bernal Heights and sends her two kids to Miraloma, where she's in charge of school tours. When Rossiter went through the process for her child, who's now in the fourth grade, you could put only five schools on your enrollment form. Miraloma was her fifth choice.
"It was an up-and-coming school, a lot like Sunnyside is now," she says. "When we got it, we were initially disappointed because we had really wanted our child to attend an immersion program and be ‘a bilingual citizen of the world.’ But we went for it, and the school has been everything we hoped it would be and more."
I started our discussion with the question that’s keeping me up at night: Should I wait pool at Alice Fong Yu?
"You really need to think about that," Rossiter advised. "Last year, 80 people were on the wait pool at Alice Fong Yu, so your chances of getting in are low. You risk giving up an opportunity of going to another school. But at the same time you don’t want to settle."
Rossiter sensed my utter disappointment and said, "Let me give you an analogy. It might help. When you’re pregnant and until you know the baby's gender, you’re having both. You can dream about life with your little boy one minute and life with your little girl the next. Once you find out the gender, whether it's at an ultrasound or at birth, you have to let go of the other one. It feels like a bit of a loss. Soon after, though, you realize that your life is all about the baby you got. You couldn't imagine anything else."
I also asked Rossiter a bunch of questions that came from SF K Files visitors. Here's a rundown:
Does it seem like a lot of families didn't get any of their seven schools?
Yes, this year the number certainly feels high. Last year and the year before we waited for the phone to ring and it rarely rang. The past few days the phones have been ringing nonstop. We've haven't experienced this level of activity in a few years. Apparently, 300 people were sitting at the EPC [educational placement center] at 8 a.m. on Monday morning.
If we request to be placed in a wait pool for our No. 1 choice, do we leave that school off our amended list?
Yes. You get your wait pool plus seven more schools. Your wait pool selection is considered your top choice. The amended list is your opportunity to expand your list—to opt for schools where your odds might be better. You need to start looking at up-and-coming schools. The wait pool choices are run before the amended lists, so if you want to try for a high demand school such as Rooftop you should list it as your wait pool option not on your amended list.
So what are those up-and-coming schools?
A few that come to mind are Harvey Milk, New Traditions, Sunnyside, Marshall, Sutro, Jose Ortega, and Francis Scott Key. We're waiting to review a document that the district will make available on Thursday at the first counseling session. It's last year's wait pool requests sorted according to wait pool demand. Schools with zero wait pool requests last year may be potential amended choice possibilities. But you have to weigh that data against this year's Round I demand data to gauge the "tipping point". For example, last year, Peabody showed zero people in the wait pool, but for two years in a row, Peabody has shown spikes in Round I enrollment requests, so it might not be an obvious amended choice anymore".
In terms of the wait pool, how do I know where my odds will be better?
You can find last year’s Round II wait pool data and this year's Round I demand data on the Parents for Public Schools and SFUSD Web sites.
Is the wait pool first-come first-serve?
No. It’s run just like the lottery in Round I. You don't get any special priority if you turned in your wait pool on Monday morning. You really should take the time you need to think about your situation. You have about two weeks to look at schools, since spring break starts on March 21. You should also talk to other parents at schools that interest you.
Can I change my wait pool request?
Parents can change their wait pool requests as many times as they want. Knowing this can be helpful in case you wish to change your wait pool school to one with better odds. Additionally, if your name comes up and you are assigned to your wait pool school, you will lose your spot at your current school of assignment—so make sure you really want a different school! If you are not assigned your wait pool school in this next run, then you will remain on the wait pool until one of two things occur: 1) you get assigned to your wait pool school; 2) you remove your name; or e) the wait pools are dissolved at the end of September.
Does registering at your assigned school affect your chances of getting into your wait pool or amended application schools?
No. Registering at your school holds your spot. The computer doesn’t know whether or not you enrolled, so it doesn't factor into you’re assignment.
If you know that you don’t want a school should you enroll?
This is a hard one to answer. You may not be excited about the school now, but giving up a spot means your child is without a school. If you're absolutely certain that you don't want that school then you can consider releasing a spot that someone else may want. But before you entirely write off a school, especially one that you haven't even toured, you should visit.
It's great that parents are following our advice by exploring new school options and touring their assigned schools; however, we want to remind everyone to be sensitive to the fact that all schools are working hard to serve the children that attend them. Even if a school is not the right fit for your child or family, please try to hold back your negative comments.
Is our original application now void?
The computer will always know if you applied on time, which round, and what your priority cohort is. Your Round I application only affects you in terms of whether or not it was in on time and whether or not you received any of your choices.
How important is neighborhood preference in determining my school assignment?
Neighborhood preference has very little influence on you’re assignment. The Student Assignment System considers a few factors to try to create balance in the schools (socio-economic status, language spoken at home and whether the child attended preschool or not). Choosing your neighborhood school won't help your chances if you don't meet criteria they are seeking to balance the schools, especially if it is a high demand school. It always comes back to supply and demand.
Is there a human factor involved in who gets picked out of the wait pool? Does calling the principal help?
No. The school sites have no Influence on your placement The district Educational Placement Center (EPC) handles the process. If you are still without a school and have questions after the Round II letters go out at the end of April, you are welcome to go the EPC. Create a relationship with a counselor there and feel free to check in with him from time to time about the status of the wait pool.
Do we need to attend a counseling session if we know what school we want to put down on our wait list?
No. Attending the counseling session is not a requirement of the Round II process. They’re set up so a bulk of people can ask questions, get a lot of information at once, and fill out forms. It's also a chance to meet PPS Parent Ambassadors, parents who will be there to tell you about their schools -- schools you may want to consider in the second round.
Can someone post a list of the schools that have openings for Round 2, or must I go to a counseling session to see it?
All we have is data from this year's Round I demand and a snap shot from last year's wait pool, which you can find on the Parents for Public Schools Web site. You can use these two documents together to evaluate trends and help determine your odds. In May the EPC will publish a list of wait pool requests from this year.
What if I want to tour a school and the school isn’t offering them?
Call Parents for Public Schools. We will connect you with a PPS Parent Ambassador representing the school.
Does the district plan to add more immersion programs?
Not this year. Currently, they’re evaluating language programming in general, including immersion models and considering other languages and programs besides immersion. Also, they need to set up more programs in the middle schools and high school to accommodate the current elementary students in immersion.
We are trying to decide whether to put our #3 choice as our wait pool choice (small, neighborhood school, better chance of getting in), or our #1 choice (very high in demand, but some parents may choose private and spaces may open up). We'd be quite happy with our #3 choice, but also can't quite give up yet on #1 or #2. What should I do?
The best thing to do would be to look at last year’s Wait Pool data and use that to inform your decision and figure out which way to go. This goes back to the tough decision about whether to "shoot for the moon" or play it safe. Rossiter said, "If it were me, and I knew I would be happy at the school that has better odds, I would choose #3 for my wait pool choice. I would want to avoid being without a school again after this round"
We did not save our original application, which is listed as one of the documents we need to register. Does anyone know if we can register without it?
Yes, try to register at the school. If you’re having a hard time registering at the school, you can do it through the EPC.
At the end of our conversation Rossiter added:
“Many rumors, myths and misinformation have been spreading around blogs and list serves. Please read the SFUSD Enrollment Guide, pages 33-36 (available at www.sfusd.edu or any school) and PPS' "tips" at www.ppssf.org to get clear, correct information about the round II enrollment process.”