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

by Ali Collins

SFUSD Enrollment season is upon us! Families are busy touring potential schools and filling out the enrollment application. Now that my girls are in the 5th grade, it is easy to forget the anxiety and worry that many parents are currently feeling. They say, “Hindsight is 20-20.” With that in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to provide some perspective for parents who may be nervous right now.

Most people get their school of choice.
Based on a report put out by SFUSD’s Educational Placement Center (EPC) based on 2015-2016 enrollment data, overall in Kindergarten through twelfth grade, 85% of applicants (12,371) received one of their choices, and 61% of applicants (8,903) received their first choice school. This is even higher at the kindergarten level with 87% of applicants receiving one of their choices. 

Even if you don’t at first receive a school of your choice, you will have more opportunities to 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 the SFUSD EPC office. Also, Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco is a great resource. (See below for information about important dates, events, and links.)

There are lots of GREAT elementary schools that you haven’t heard of! 
Did you know: there are 72 elementary schools in SFUSD? Many parents have heard the names: Claire Lillienthal, Clarendon, Rooftop… But did you know about Yick Wo? or Spring Valley or John Yehall Chin? (My girls go to Jean Parker and I think it’s the BEST SCHOOL IN THE CITY!) There are AMAZING schools in every neighborhood that no one knows about. Nonetheless, I know many of the parents at them couldn’t be happier. 

Here’s something else to think about: of the 4,782 kindergarten applications SFUSD received last year, there were 1575 requests for Clarendon. That’s almost 1/3 of all applications! It is my belief that most parents have only heard of a few schools. They limit their choices for fear they’ll pick a “bad one.” Just because a school doesn’t have a lot of name recognition doesn’t mean it’s not a perfect fit your kid.

There is a lot of movement on the first 10 days of school.
During the first week of school, the district does what it calls a “ three-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 three days, they are dropped from enrollment. During this time period, there are lots of shifts in enrollment: when families move or choose private schools, spaces open up at higher choice schools and students transfer. During the first few months of Kindergarten, children are in transition. Thus, it is no big deal if you child starts school at one site and moves over in a week or so. Though it is 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!


Important dates to keep in mind.
This helpful information comes from Parents for Public Schools (PPS-SF) and the SFUSD Enrollment site.

  • Friday, January 15, 2016 - Deadline to turn in your SFUSD application.
  • Friday, March 11, 2016 – Round 1 offer letters go out. Many will be received on a 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.)
  • During the month of March (after Round 1 letter go out) look for a Parents For Public Schools Workshops on Navigating Round 2 and Beyond. PPS-SF members will share information on the 2nd round enrollment process and provide advice from parents who have gone through it before.
  • March 14-25, & April 4-8, 2016 – 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 13, 2016 – 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…

Ali Collins is an educator, parent organizer, and public school advocate living in the Bay Area.  She writes about race, parenting, and education on her blog SF Public School Mom. To read her musing on being a public school parent and educator, and to download resources to spur change at your child’s school, go to or connect with her via
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