Monday, May 5, 2008

Guest blogger: Vicki Symonds of Parents for Public Schools

This post is an update to our recent post on FAQs regarding Round II to update information regarding the submittal date to change your waitpool school. We have just heard from the EPC that the information that they had formally given us is inaccurate. The accurate key dates are as follows.

Key Dates
• Friday May 9th: Deadline to Register at your assigned school.
• Friday May 9th. Deadline to change your designated waitpool school.
• Friday May 16th. According to the Director of the EPC, applications will be accepted until this date as a “grace period.”
• Friday May 23rd. Waitpool assignment letters will be mailed home.
• Tuesday May 27th. Open Enrollment Begins.

I apologize for the confusion and misinformation. We went to great lengths to confirm all of our posts and reconfirm the deadlines. If you are considering changing your waitpool school I would advise doing so by May 9th.


1. Is there a deadline to change your waitpool school before the next waitpools are run?

Yes, deadline to change your waitpool school for the next waitpool run is Friday May 9th, however, according the EPC director applications will be accepted till May 16th as a "grace period.” If you are considering changing your waitpool school I would advise doing so by May 9th. Waitpools will be run the week of May 19th and letters will be sent on May 23rd.

2. Will there be a second wave of letters sent after the May 23rd waitpool run before Open Enrollment?

Yes. The Educational Placement Center will be sending letters again on May 23 as a result of the latest waitpool run which will be done during the week of May 19th. Letters will continue to be mailed throughout the summer offering assignments to people on the waitpool when openings are made available. Once school starts, the Educational Placement Center will call individual households to offer assignments.

3. If you are granted an appeal status can you change your waitpool school and still retain your appeal status or is this designation tied to the original waitpool choice?

Yes, you can change your waitpool school without loosing your appeal status. If you are granted appeal status, your cohort changes to a higher priority, but you can still change schools. For example there are 70 people in the waitpool at Alice Fong Yu, and 7 of them have medical/hardship status – that’s still hard odds to beat – some of them may eventually want to consider changing their wait pool choice.

4. If you get your waitpool choice can you then waitpool at another school that you might prefer more than your original choice?

No, once you get your waitpool school you are considered done. You cannot participate in the waitpool process again.

Amended List

5. I put down schools on my amended list that did not have any waitpools. Why wasn’t I given one of these schools? (ie New Traditions, Sunnyside, Lafayette).

In many cases the assignment system over enrolled schools assuming that some people will release their spots. These schools are considered full but do not have waitpools and will not have openings until spots are released.

6. Can a child who had lower priority than my child get assigned a school off of their waitpool list ahead of me?

No, you will be assigned before a person in a lower cohort. The only exception to this is in the case of two-way immersion schools. In the case of two-way immersion programs, language status is a consideration. For example, if the school needs to fill slots for non-Spanish speakers it may place a non-spanish speaker from a lower priority cohort rather than a Spanish speaker in a higher priority cohort.

Open Enrollment.

7. Will there be openings during Open Enrollment?

Yes, there will be openings at schools during Open Enrollment. Parents can request a placement at a school that has an opening and no waitpool.

Over Enrolled Schools

8. How can we know how much a school is overenrolled?

You can ask the EPC. This is one good reason to establish a relationship with the EPC so that you can be kept well informed of the over enrollment status of certain schools.

9. How can you tell right now if there are openings at a school rather than over enrolled?

You can’t without talking with the EPC.

Transfers and Children New to the System

10. If a child is enrolled and attending a San Francisco Public School will this child have a lower priority than a child who is new to San Francisco Public Schools in the assignment system?

No, children new to San Francisco Public Schools do not have a priority over children already enrolled and attending a Public School in San Francisco.

11. After the 10 day count and the assignment system officially closes (sometime at the end of September – early October) and you hear of an opening in a school you prefer can you be assigned to this school?

No, SFUSD discourages inter-school transfers unless you move or you can show extreme cause. However, they will assign children who are new to SFUSD.


  1. Vicki, thanks for this interpretation of EPC-speak. Very much appreciated.

  2. Vicki,

    We appreciate this post, the new deadline date for changing your waitlist, et al. I'm glad I have one more week to look at schools before changing wait lists.

  3. Vicki,

    Thank you for the information. Will the EPC periodically update the waitpool numbers as they change? If not, is it better to contact the school or the EPC?

  4. The EPC will update their waitpool lists and make them available online a few times over the summer. However, it is very dynamic and can change frequently. Its best to contact the EPC for up to date info.

    Although the school has info about openings they do not have the latest info about who or how many people are in the waitpool. Again, the EPC is the best goto for this info.

    - Vicki

  5. this makes me nervous... the form to change waitpool selection has a deadline of May 9.

    should i just make peace with the constant flow of conflicting info?

    it is no wonder the EPC gets 500 calls a day.

  6. I went down to the EPC this morning to change my waitpool request from an extremely popular school to one that is much less so.

    At this point, I just need a damned school.

    The counselor told me that of the 25 waitlist people last year at the popular school I listed, 8 eventually got in. While at the lesser one I was getting ready to change to, with only 5 on the waitlist, none got placed.

    So I left, having accomplished nothing. Except being more confused and ready to throw in the towel.

    At this point, maybe I should pick a school that has no waitlist, and try to have a good summer? I am stumped.

    It's hard giving up that school you really wanted, especially when there is so much movement. It seemed to me that there was far more movement at the most popular shools than the less popular. Like, Clarendon and Rooftop ended having around 10 openings each! by last Setember! That's a lot. Makes me wonder if it's better to go for broke to these popular schools.

    Any ideas? Basically, where should we chose to wait at this point?

  7. We have just heard from the EPC that the information that they had formally given us is inaccurate.

    - Deadline to change your waitpool school is May 9th as stated on the form.

    - According to Director of the EPC, applications will be accepted till May 16th as a "grace period."

    - Waitpool run is the week of May 19th.

    - Letters will be sent on May 23rd.

    I apologize for the confusion and misinformation. We went to great lengths to confirm all of our posts and reconfirm the deadlines. If you are considering changing your waitpool school I would advise doing so by May 9th.


  8. Thank you, Vicki...but doesn't this mean that, if we make a change by May 9th, based on available information, we still will need to go back later next week to find out what's changed?

    In other words, it sounds like the EPC will hose us into having to make 2 trips. One to meet the May 9th deadline, then one to check the information later next week, after they accept 'grace period' changes.

    They really just are a complete disaster to deal with, as far as I can tell, and are entirely clueless about how much more painful they are making this process.

  9. I have to add that I am almost impressed by the EPC's ability to represent the worst of beaurocratic incompetence.

  10. what is the point of having a deadline if there is a grace period?

    i think people who get something they request, anywhere in the process, should be considered done. there is no reason to encourage people to change their minds all the way to the 10 day count. it just makes it difficult for those who got nothing they requested.

  11. I think there are some problems with saying "once you have been assigned ANYTHING on your list you are done and can no longer participate in the process"

    I think in that situation many people would less likely to open up their lists. If they know that once they get a school they would be ok with but not thrilled with that they are no longer in the running for their dream school they would be more likely to dig their heels in.

    I think this is the same reason they let round one 0/7 people keep their priority in the lottery even if they get one of their schools off the second round list.

    EPC's goal as I see it is to get people to open up to schools that they might not otherwise consider and like it or not these seemingly weird procedures do have some effect on that.

  12. Since we are trying to make a lot of decisions with very little information, what I'd like to know from the District is how much fidelity there is in school movement from year to year? I have last year's placement numbers from the waitlist, but I think it is folly to assume that this year would look the same, especially with the higher demand numbers. Does anyone know how the wait list admissions have tracked from year to year in general? If there consistency or do the numbers vary greatly? To us, that is key in terms of deciding to go for a safety and get this resolved sooner or wait it out and hope for the ideal choice for our family.

  13. question about sibling priority: siblings are guaranteed a spot wt the school where you have an older child, right? what happens if the younger sibling is admitted and the older sibling is registered at the school, but then does not end up attending the school (because the older sibling transfers during the 10-day count, for example) -- will the district kick out the younger sibling? i know that there is no alumni preference (so if the older sib is in a k-5 school and is in 5th grade the year you apply for the younger, the younger sib does not get any preference because the older sib will be gone by the time the younger sib starts).

  14. Just curious: does SFUSD have the most complex enrollment system in the country?

    Not to be mean but I would love to know that parents somewhere else have it even harder than we do.

  15. 11:29, I'm not sure anyone could know that without some massive study.

    I know that Los Angeles Unified has a really complicated enrollment system for its popular magnet schools. Applicants get points for various things, including living in certain ZIP codes. You get extra points for having applied unsuccessfully in a previous year.

    Here's how my nephew managed to work that to get into the popular arts and humanities magnet at Hamilton HS in West L.A., where he's now a sophomore: His birthday is Oct. 15; he was originally "red-shirted" so is old enough to be a grade ahead of where he is; and he was in private school K-8. So, planning ahead, while in 7th grade (in private school) he applied to Hamilton's 9th grade for the following year. Since he was old enough calendarwise, it was legal; the fact that he was actually in 7th grade was immaterial because he wasn't in a LAUSD school at the time. He didn't get in that year, but got those extra points for his subsequent year's successful application.

    Complicated enough?

    From reading education news around the country, though, I can see that in many big diverse urban districts, low-income kids really ARE "stuck" in troubled schools that are almost totally segregated -- 97, 98, 99% African-American or Latino, overwhelmingly low-income, etc. Often, at high school level, these schools are huge, overcrowded and low-performing.

    The idea that these kids need options like small schools really makes sense in that context.

    That situation just does not exist in SFUSD. Kids in low-income neighborhoods do have access to any school in the district; middle-class parents complain all the time about the fact that disadvantaged kids get priority boosts in the enrollment process. A low-income African-American kid from the Sunnydale projects who applies to Rooftop, Presidio or Lincoln is likely to get in.

    (SFUSD's largest high schools are on the West Side, are heavily Asian and are high-performing and in demand. And again, that kid from Sunnydale does have access to them -- even gets boosts in the Lowell and SOTA admissions process if he/she applies to those schools.)

    So that may be the tradeoff for some of the complexity.

  16. To 2:51
    I went to the EPC yesterday and met with a counselor (Mui). She gave me the impression that the numbers this year are not like anything that they have seen before. Lots more enrollments, lots more waitlist requests, much less movement between Round 1 and Round 2 (because so many people enrolled in Round 1). They do not expect the next waitpool run to result in much movement (nothing opening up so nothing to place people into).
    She repeated several times that they did not expect a lot of movement until August and September (mostly once the 10 day count is done).

    BTW I live on the west side and, she gave me updated aggregate waitpool numbers for the schools that I'm interested in. Most of them had gone up and some schools that didn't have waitlists on 4/28 do now (Stephenson and New Traditions, for example). Very depressing.

  17. Hi, if anyone can help me with my question that would be great (so much knowledge here!)

    My child is switching from private to public school for next year, 8th grade. Round 1, I put 6 schools, was offered none of my choices. I didn't enroll in the school offered and I haven't done anything since - I thought perhaps I'd stay with the private school but that isn't realistic.

    So now is there any way to get into a wait pool or do I wait for open enrollment? What are my choices? Also, I was thinking a K-8 school would be an easier transition than the middle schools. Does anyone have an opinion on this?


  18. 1:05 a.m., call Parents for Public Schools for advice if you haven't -- 415/861-7077.

    I have known kids who transferred from private into my kids' middle school, Aptos, at grades 6, 7 and 8, and fit in comfortably.

    The K-8 schools are smaller, which could be seen as an advantage, but the kids have been together since K, which seems like it could make it harder to penetrate the circle.

    There's always some movement among rising 8th-graders in the bigger middle schools -- s*** just happens -- so don't worry; you'll get something. If you're looking at a middle school with separate honors classes and you think your child would fit best into those classes, you'll need to get some work samples to discuss with the school's GATE coordinator.

    If you're interested in Aptos (which I would recommend), contact the school and talk to GATE coordinator Russell Addiego.

  19. Elizabeth HalperinMay 12, 2008 at 8:10 AM

    I switched my son from a middle school to a K-8 in 8th grade, and we had to wait until the end of summer to get the assignment. It worked out fine and he thrived at the new school.

  20. In meeting with Shem, an EPC counselor this morning, I learned a many of the high demand schools with large waitlists are also over-enrolled. This does not bode well. Please! To those of you who are holding spots but not planning to attend the school, let EPC know!

  21. Thanks to Caroline and Elizabeth Halperin for your advice - I am 1:05 am (was it that late??), parent of the 7th grader.

    I did call parents for Public Schools and the EPC and I think my son is now in the wait pool for Lilienthal, 8th grade, which currently has only 1 other 8th grader. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky.

    Caroline, thanks for the info about Aptos MS. I'm not sure if my son would be appropriate for Gate. He's a funny kind of student - he grasps the hard stuff quickly, but struggles with things that seem easy, like copying accurately off the board. So his grades aren't always the best, but socially he tends to hang with the really bright kids. I will follow up with the coordinator.

    I'm excited for next year, altho it sounds like I may not find out anything until this summer.

  22. Good luck with the 8th-grade enrollment!

  23. About Open Enrollment...

    How busy is it on the first day of Open Enrollment? do we need to be there first thing? Or is it possible to drop my daughter at school and get there, say, 9ish.

    If it's a line around the block, I'm moving. Juuust kiiiiding.

    any one?

  24. I met with Hans Gong at EPC today. He was definitely helpful and trying to offer options, unlike the other underwhelming counselors that I have met.

    FYI According to Hans, you can not change your waitpool choice for the 5/23 run at this point. The deadline was 5/9 and the grace period concept appears to be bogus. You can change your choice for the next run in June, but he didn't have a deadline for doing that.

    I asked about open enrollment, he has no sense how many people will show up. He did indicate that not a lot of schools would be available - he listed Ortega GE, Cobb, Guadalupe, McCoppin, maybe probably having openings.

    The immersion programs are packed. Ortega's Mandarin immersion class is almost fully enrolled (19 kids for 20 seats) with 6 in the waitpool (after not being on anyone's radar for Round 1).

    He thinks that there will be very little movement until after the 10 day count.

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