Applying to Kindergarten during Covid

Hi families,

We will be applying to elementary schools coming up in the next few months and are hoping to share any kind of dialogue with other families who have thoughts or advice. We are in the Montclair school district and while I have read up on the OUSD assignment system and read threads on different schools, I am curious how to become more familiar with them specially in Covid times. Are tours happening? Is it reasonable or naive to assume schools will be "back to normal" before applications are due? Has Covid made any families switch their game plans to private? How did you pick your elementary school (even if you didn't get first choice)?

Thanks in advance!

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We have twins who are starting kindergarten in 2021 and have many of the same questions. I sent an email today to OUSD and the principal of our neighborhood school (Sankofa) to find out more about tours/info sessions. I can let you know if I hear anything. 


Hello - my daughter will be in K starting 2021 as well, and I have the same questions, so thank you for posting!


We have a Kinder this year and a 2nd grader in OUSD at a school similar to Montclair. I can't imagine they are holding in-person tours at this point. Even if school goes back in-person(which I don't think will happen for our school at all this school year) I think they will not allow any other people on campus. They may be holding online "tours" where you can listen to the Principal speak. Each school does something different so it's best to reach out to the schools you want to list on your application to find out. I can say that at our school there have been many families that have left. In my daughter's kinder class we have had about 8 kids leave-some went to private and some decided to keep their kids in preschool another year. My son's 2nd grade has lost about 5 kids. Some left for private school and some were looking for a more stable distance learning option and found online charter schools and one moved away. I don't think schools in OUSD will be back to normal before applications are due, unfortunately.  From communication we have received from the district homeless children and kids participating in special education classes will go back to in-person school first and that may not be until January. It is going to be pretty hard to get a feel for each school via an online tour. I would recommend trying to find parent reviews on schools you want to apply to. Good luck. 

I'm a parent at Chabot, and I can tell you that we are not planning to hold in-person tours this year. There will definitely be opportunities for online info sessions. I can also tell you that I doubt very much that school will be "back to normal" before the application deadline. OUSD has announced that we definitely won't go back until January at the earliest, and even if we do go back to some form of in-person learning by then, it is not sounding like it will be "normal." (This is for OUSD as a whole.) So I wouldn't count on being able to observe "normal" school in person prior to early February, when you have to submit your options forms.

To your question about families switching to private school during Covid... YES. That is happening, at least at Chabot. We had a pretty big exodus right at the start of the school year. (Although I can say as someone with one kid in private and one kid in public, I am not seeing many differences in the quality of online learning. The big difference between public and private during covid is in the amount and clarity of communication with parents. But I'm sure that experiences vary dramatically based on specific teachers.)

As for how to pick an elementary school, may I suggest that you give a listen to this podcast? (It's Integrated Schools, Season 5, Episode 7).

It highlights the fact that often the factors parents care about most are not the factors that are measured and reported. So we tend to overemphasize measures that don't actually reflect what we care about (e.g., standardized test scores, which are most reliable at telling us the socioeconomic status of the student) or we default to trusting our social networks, which is a totally rational approach, but in an environment where there is parental choice, it often leads to schools that are segregated by class and race. I found it really thought-provoking. (This podcast as a whole is very thought provoking!) And if I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I would have made the same choices. Good luck navigating all this during a difficult year!

We are facing the same choice about kindergarten, as our four-year-old is in pre-K now and we're moving to Berkeley this December.