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In San Diego Unified? Now’s The Time To Choose A School For Your Child

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The school choice window for San Diego Unified, the county's largest school district, is open through Nov. 13.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego unified school district has opened up at school choice window again from now until November 13th parents can submit applications to move their children from neighborhood schools to other schools within the district, but submitting an application doesn't guarantee that a child will be able to switch schools. Joining us by Skype with the details surrounding the school choice window is voice of San Diego education reporter. We'll hunt Sperry and we'll welcome to the program. Hey Maureen. So is this a popular program? Do a lot of parents want to switch their kids from neighborhood schools?

Speaker 2: 00:35 Well, about 10,000 people a year submit a choice application, so that would be less than 10% of the district. So it's not something everyone is doing for sure. If a family wants to go to their neighborhood school, they're absolutely entitled to a seat to go there and they can do it. But if they would like to choose into a different school, a magnet program or a bilingual program or just another school in another neighborhood, now is the time where they will try to do that. They will submit an application between now and November 13th and based on a lottery process and a set of priorities the district uses. They may or may not get in. Like you said,

Speaker 1: 01:18 you sort of gave us an overview of how the choice process works, but let's go into that a little bit. How, where do you get an application? How do you submit it? How does the process work?

Speaker 2: 01:28 Sure, so you apply online though. You can also go into the school district, central office and get paperwork to apply. I believe you get to choose your top three schools, your first second and your third choice. And the first thing the district will do to assign this open seats around the district is they'll look at a set of priorities like do you have a sibling in the school you're applying to? If you do that would mean you get one of the first open seats. Another new choice priority for this year is that if a student is leaving a charter school or leaving a private school, they'll also get priority status during this window. I mean right now, the earlier you apply, doesn't matter. As long as you get your application in before November 13th, you're on an equal footing with everybody else. But then if you don't have one of those priority statuses, then the rest of the seats are assigned by lottery. So, you know, uh, it'll just all be jumbled up in a hat and they'll pull the numbers out.

Speaker 1: 02:35 Now I understand that this year fewer students in the district will be able to switch schools. Why is that?

Speaker 2: 02:41 Well, that's correct. About 20% less choice seats will be open according to 'em. What the union Tribune has reported, and there's several reasons for that. The district says it's because there's declining enrollment every year. Um, some students are choosing to go to power or to charter schools. Some students are choosing to go out of the district. So because there are less students in this school district that they're saying they have a responsibility to balance enrollment in every school and making sure every school has a certain amount of enrollment in. Some schools aren't deeply under enrolled, while others are over enrolled. Uh, you know, we've done some recent reporting that showed the district has a lot of capacity right now and it has about a dozen schools that are seriously under enrolled right now. There aren't any conversations going on about closing schools, combining schools, anything like that.

Speaker 1: 03:39 Now you mentioned that uh, students who are perhaps leaving a charter school to go into the San Diego unified district will get priority in this school choice window. Uh, the governor just signed AB 1505, which lets communities assess how much money and resources opening up a new charter school would take away from existing schools. Do you think that means fewer charter schools for California?

Speaker 2: 04:05 I think it definitely means that districts will be taking a tougher look. School districts that would authorize the charter school like Sandy Diego unified, I think they'll take a tougher look at whether to open them. Certainly, you know, we saw thrive charter school, uh, their charter wasn't renewed earlier this year. In years past they might have been able to stay open with their performance. Um, they were performing slightly below average of comparable district schools. And so the district, the district decided no, we're not accepting that anymore. And I think I, yes, I think all school districts are in difficult financial straits. Their budgets are stretched thin and I think it's very feasible that that less charter schools will be opening, um, under that new bill.

Speaker 1: 04:52 Now I know voice of San Diego has been publishing a guide for the last few years to help parents decide on a school for their kids if they want to during this school choice window. Where can parents access the school choice guide from voice?

Speaker 2: 05:05 You know, you can grab a copy at a lot of preschools around the area. We try to put them in strategic places, but you can also go online and find our school's guide. Uh, just go to voice of San diego.org and then you'll be able to find it from there. You know, our goal is to empower parents to have the best information they can at their disposal about their neighborhood school and how it's doing and, and to be able to look up other schools. This, this guide mentions every single school in the County. All 500 plus of them. And it gives you lots of diverse data about each school. Not, not just one data point. It tells you how test scores are doing. It tells you how they're trending over time. It tells you how many students are taking AP classes and the tests. It tells you if a lot of students are chronically absent at the school. So it gives you like a healthy, wide range on what's happening in local schools. And we've been going around to libraries and doing presentations on it. You know, we see some parents carrying it around like, like their Bible almost looking for, for the school that she's so, yeah, please, please grab a copy. And I've been speaking with voice of San Diego education reporter will Huntsburg well, thank you. Thanks Maureen.

Speaker 3: 06:28 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.