Applying for Middle School During Summer

We are moving to Berkeley this summer and our son will be starting middle school (6th grade) in the Fall. We would really like for him to be in a school in walking distance from home. So my question is, can any of you give advice on how late in the summer we can apply for a middle school and have a pretty good chance of him getting in, assuming we are actually in that school's district? Does this vary between King, Willard and Longfellow? I guess as a bonus question, it would be interesting to know if there's any chance of getting into an out-of-zone school if we apply during the summer (e.g., getting into Willard while living in the King zone or vice versa).

Also, am I right to think that any date between May 17 and June 14 would be equivalent (all in Round Three of the lottery), and then the chances are lower in the "ongoing" enrollment period after that and decrease further as more students request spots or sign onto waiting lists?

Thanks for any help you can give. Sorry this is so abstract. A more concrete version would be, "We expect to live in the Willard zone and would really like to enroll our son in Willard. How soon do we need to apply to have a reasonable chance of that working out (either immediately or via the waiting list)?"

I'd also love to hear about any specific experiences of applying for middle school over the summer, and how that worked out.


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Just apply now or call the district. As far as I know (I have two kids at BHS), you get what you get in Berkeley. The district literally does not care if the school is in walking distance. If you aren't zoned for that school, you won't get it and the middle school zones are a bit weird. If you live in the Willard zone, you will not likely get a spot at King off the waiting list. The school is impacted and popular. I do know of one family who did get off the waitlist, several months into the school year and by that time, their child was already settled. But Willard is a great school. Just take that spot if it's offered. The perception is that King is better than Willard and it isn't (both of my kids went to King). 

We did this in 2019 so things may have changed, but here's how it worked that year. Contrary to what we were told by admins in the BUSD office (and what some people online thought), as best I could tell most every student who applied at this time of year or later was sent to Longfellow. We were zoned for Williard and told that meant we would definitely get Williard but could try for others. That was not the case. We were told that Longfellow was opt-in only and not assigned if you had not requested it. That was not true for us. On the first day of school at Longfellow, they were trying to sort out about ~70 other late registered students and we were told they were all sent to Longfellow because enrollment was low. Obviously, all these last minute registrations created logistical challenges for the school, although they did mostly get it sorted out eventually. We waitlisted for Williard (and King) but were never offered another option.

I don't know if they have since made changes (many changes were discussed, but we have left BUSD and I don't know if any were implemented). And unfortunately, I don't know how you can avoid finding yourself in the same situation if they haven't made changes. But I would definitely register as soon as possible and not be confident that your child will be placed in your zoned school or your preferred school based on the registration process alone. Note that BUSD will refuse to register you if you tell them you are moving to the area and will say you must wait until you have actually moved there.