As we hit mid-November, families are probably starting to get a sense for the school enrollment processes. Readers who have gone through this before, any advice for parents going through it now? What are the best strategies out there?
I want to be clear, I'm not necessarily suggesting strategies for "winning" the lottery and getting the most coveted school or beating all the other kids out for a private school spot, because I don't want to encourage the feeling of desperation that implies only a few options are "winning" the lottery or "winning" the private school race.. But I do think there are a few tips I've heard from parents over the past couple of years that can help make sure you are happier with your outcomes in March or May and don't feel lost and panicky on behalf of your little ones.
1. Don't forget the charter schools--and you might need to tour those to enter the lottery, so take care of that now. I know of two: Thomas Edison Charter Academy (TECA) and Creative Arts Charter School, TECA used to have a first-come first-serve enrollment but they've scrapped that for a lottery (separate from the SFUSD lottery). Creative Arts Charter School also has a lottery but I think you have to have gone on a tour to enter (which is not true of any SFUSD school). Both TECA and Creative Arts seems to go pretty far down their wait lists, so it seems like a good idea to enter their lotteries. I think there's also a third charter school somewhere near the Mission--does anyone know about that one?
2. Make a long list: The SFUSD form will only give you spots for 10 schools but consensus seems to be to list at least 30 or 40 if you can. If you only list 10, you're telling the district you would be equally happy with any school after that--but that's probably not true. There's an extra form you will have to ask for. Also, you need to list your Attendance Area school somewhere on your list if you are at all willing to get that assignment; it's not a default option.
3. Keep an open mind and take a look at less central schools: As you're making that long list, take a look at some of the schools that are geographically inconvenient for many families, including Garfield, Yick Wo, and a number of the far west side schools -- Lafayette, Sunset, Francis Scott Key, Ulloa and Lakeshore come to mind. It may be they work for you. Glen Park and Monroe also seem like interesting options that may not be convenient for everyone.
4. Ask around about hidden gems: Rosa Parks JBBP consistently comes up in conversations as a remarkable school and program and it is very central. You do NOT need to speak Japanese to be in the JBBP program; it's not an immersion program but rather a cultural and language education program.
5. This is a bit counter-intuitive, but a number of commenters have suggested that you list immersion programs even if you don't want them (because of a feature in the algorithm that will "swap" you) -- but if you don't want them, put them last on a long list. Likewise, if your Attendance Area school is popular but you don't want it, you might list it but list it last on a long list.
6. Stay in if you can. If you don't like your assignment in March, I would say don't immediately pack your bags for the suburbs. Spots definitely open up at many SFUSD schools over the summer and in September.
I don't have great suggestions for independent schools but maybe someone out there does?