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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

Need a School . . . Now?!

Given the changes due to the pandemic, whether driven by a move or a need for a school that better meets a family’s needs, some parents are looking to move their children quickly, before school starts in August. We all have a number of reasons that can drive us to change schools last minute.

You can find openings; Think through what are your needs

Due to the pandemic, families are moving to have more space, be closer to family, or save money. These moves create openings even among schools with high parent satisfaction. For private schools, a simple email to admissions or a post in our Facebook Group can determine a list of potential openings.

Before reaching out, think through what you would like in a school. Factors may include:

  • Full-time in-person schooling so that you can work;

  • Full-time distance learning because your family is at risk;

  • A different school philosophy that will better meet your child’s needs;

  • Financial considerations.

More help in distinguishing school styles can be found in my prior articles, including finding a school during the pandemic, choosing an elementary school, and schooling for gifted and fast learning children

Given a tight timeline, you most likely will not get a chance to tour every school, so spend some upfront time researching your needs and what each school offers so that you target your time to the best potential fits. For instance, if you feel your child needs more structure, and you apply to a school low on structure, you are wasting your valuable time. 

Public or Charter School

If you are looking for a public school, you can call the EPC for a list of schools with openings, and you can turn in a wait pool form for a new assignment. The most popular schools will likely assign either the week before or after school starts. More about this process on the SFUSD website. SFUSD is not sharing a list of which schools have spaces, so each parent must call individually. Anecdotally, we are hearing of parents considering private schools and moving to suburbs with bigger yards, so we do expect some openings at all grade levels the first week of school; these will generally be released after the third day of school and be assigned to families on the wait pool. 

Private School (Independent or Catholic/Parochial)

Applications will be adapted due to the tight timeline plus COVID19 risks. Generally, after an email to the admissions director, families will complete an application, including essays and teacher recommendations, so having the fit question considered in advance will help you move to the next step. After the application, families will likely meet with the admissions director or a teacher via zoom or, in some cases, in person with a mask. 

Narrowing down your questions to those you cannot find on their website or in the Facebook group will help you move most efficiently and with the best chances of success. Some excellent questions:

  • How many days will my child(ren)’s grade level be on site? How many will be in each group or "pod," and will masks be required?

  • Do you have a plan or option for distance learning if my family should become sick? How will this program be staffed? Will the school film existing pods, or will there be a distance pod?

  • What did distance learning look like this past fall, and what did the team learn from the experience that will be changed if the city closes schools to in person learning?

  • What changes has the school made to adapt to the pandemic?

  • What is your social emotional program, and how has it changed with the pandemic?

  • How are you educating children of privilege about equity and anti-racism?

  • For middle schoolers, what do you offer in terms of executive function education? How do you help with the high school application process?

Financial Aid budgets, in some cases are fully assigned by this point, but some schools have a small budget left. If you cannot afford the school without financial aid, share this upfront. Be prepared to complete the online financial aid application; more on the process in my blog article about Financial Aid applications. Given the need to save budget for current families who lose their jobs, be realistic if you can afford the school but would need to cut back on your expenses or save less for retirement, or if you could afford to do so for the first year, but need to ask if they would consider a small grant for subsequent years.

Need more help?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco in an environment of non-judgment. Her own children have attended both public and private schools, and she believes that each has unique benefits. Email to learn more about her services or to ask for a referral to an IEP Advocate.

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