Getting child into Sylvia Mendez if you live in Alameda?

Hi all,

My wife and I are starting to research Spanish immersion schools for our Spanish-speaking daughter. (Getting an early start; she's only 2.) We hear great things about Sylvia Mendez in Berkeley, but we're not zoned for the school as Alameda residents. We know there's an 'inter-district transfer' process, but we're trying to gauge what the odds are. The school is very competitive even for Berkeley residents, which makes me think we shouldn't think of it as a viable transfer option. Do any folks have relevant knowledge or experience with this?

Thank you!

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I'm assuming that Berkeley residents would have priority over out-of-district transfers, and I know that Sylvia Mendez always has a long waitlist for kids who aren't native Spanish speakers. We started as #4 on the waitlist, rose to #1 after the first few weeks of school, and then never got in. So if you're in this group, I'd say VERY unlikely.

The lottery is split into three groups: non-native Speakers with no family background (see above), native Spanish speakers/English language learner (i.e. kids who speak Spanish better than English), and heritage speakers (i.e. kids who may not speak Spanish fluently but come from a Spanish-speaking family background). Kid in these groups are much more likely to get in, but I don't know if they are undersubscribed enough that they have space for non-Berkeley kids.

I'd suggest looking at the immersion schools in Oakland.

Remember that before you even have a shot at it, you need to meet the criteria for a transfer—most common way is that one of you physically works in Berkeley full-time. Assuming you do meet that, the odds still seem slim; most people we know with transfers were placed late in the enrollment season after residents. Even if you were to move to Berkeley, there’d be no guarantee since it’s a high demand program. I’d look for other options.

It's true that if your child is not monolingual Spanish-speaking, the chance of getting into Sylvia Mendez is slim to none. Berkeley residents get placed before inter-district transfers are considered, and many Berkeley residents never get off the wait list. There are always more spots for monolingual Spanish-speaking children, so if that's the case, you can try to have her tested as monolingual. Getting interdistrict transfers into Berkeley is a difficult process itself, so it may make more sense to stay in local schools.

I would be shocked if you got in as an intra district transfer.  My understanding is that generally works better when there are schools that have open slots.  There is quite the wait list for sylvia mendez so I don't think it's going to work.

I hope others will be able to answer about Sylvia Mendez but if you're looking for Spanish immersion and doing an interdistrict transfer, consider looking at OUSD schools as well. There are quite a few and many are good options. Ones that made our list were Melrose Leadership Academy,  Manzanita Seed, International Community School and Greenleaf. Our kids ended up at Greenleaf and it's been a good fit. We're Oakland residents so I'm afraid I can't guide you on the transfer, but it's good to look at all the options out there. 

It’s hard to transfer in as a non-resident unless you work in Berkeley. Based on the experience of a family we know, even if you work here there’s no guarantee. And then if you are accepted, you’ll fall last in priority in terms of school selection.