Relocating to SF from New York - worried about school assignment

I am relocating from NY to SF for work. I have 3 children going to 2nd, 6th and 8th grade for next school year 18/19. I want to move to a neighborhood that is 30 mins from work by public transport (Bart, bus or ferry) because I don't drive. And a public or charter school that will preferably offer K-8 grade so all three can be dropped off  and picked up at the same location or walking distance.  Does such a school exist or am I asking for the impossible?

I spoke with SFUSD counselor and was told that we will be assigned leftover schools when the kids move to SF and it's almost impossible to have all three of them in the same school or even in the same district. So, I decided to look at East Bay which seems like there's a higher chance of getting into a school in the area you live in.

I am open to any neighborhood that meets these criteria; however, I was told that the enrollment process can only start if I am already living in the area, not the other way round.  I am moving to SF in May and my children in July after they finish school in NY, but, by then we would have passed all enrollment deadline and my children may or may not get into a school of choice depending if the school has any spots left.

How do I ensure they get into the school then find housing in the area so that the home will be walking distance to the school? I plan to rent so I am flexible in terms of location.

Any advice?

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Move to Albany, where there are only five schools (three elementary, one middle, one high) and all are strong, so you will wind up at one not too far away. Your commute will be farther than 30 minutes, but not by much. Look for housing close to El Cerrito Plaza BART station (but on the Albany side). This also assumes you have a relatively large budget for rent, but hopefully you are already aware of and prepared for the high housing cost here. Good luck and welcome!

I live in Albany (East Bay, between Berkeley and El Cerrito) and the town is small enough that all the schools are walking distance from wherever you live. There's 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school. It's an easy commute to downtown SF via the AC transit transbay bus (coach buses that only run during commute hours) or BART. It's truly a great place to live because it's a great mix of urban/suburban with great walkability. The only catch, is that it's really expensive and the homes are small. Good luck!

Similar to what the previous poster said about Albany - also applies to Piedmont. Piedmont has only 3 elementary schools, one middle, and one high, and they are all excellent. So even if you  move in the summer, there is zero stress about your kids getting into school. The largest elementary school is also the one that is closest to the middle school (there is no K-8). From Piedmont you can either do the Trans-Bay bus straight to SF or the casual carpool in the mornings. Housing costs will be high but you get great K-12 walkable schools.

Hi There!

We did the same thing in 2010. Managing the lotteries in OUSD or BUSD will be impossible without an actual address. You could go private school for a year while you get settled and then start the lottery process in the fall once you have an actual address. We ended up in private school just for the reasons you addressed. You could also rent a house or apartment now, depending on your budget, so you have an address and go from there.

Two towns in the East Bay, Piedmont and Albany, both have good schools. If you’re committed to public school, you could move to one of those two towns and goto public school there. They will both be challenging to live in without a car though. Albany is a bit easier without a car and the kids can walk/bike to school from almost anywhere in Albany. Depending on where you live, BART can be a 10/15 minute walk from Albany.

Good luck!

You may want to consider the west end of Alameda. It's a great place to live, a quick ferry ride to SF, and there are 3 charter schools (Academy of Alameda (K-8), NeaCLC (K-12), and ACLC (6-12)) only a block apart. Even if your kids ended up in 2 schools, it would be no big deal. Good luck!

Hi, I'm in the same position - moving from Toronto and when I visited the schools in January I was told it is impossible to enrol before moving. You must prove residency with a utility bill etc. and likely will end up in one of the over flow schools outside your district (which means no walking). Enrolment is happening Feb/Mar so if you have flexibility, I advise you to move ASAP to at least get into the lineup.

For this reason we are not taking a chance so instead of moving to our first choice neighbourhood, we are making a compromise and moving to our second choice and sending our son to private school. Then we may try again for the 2019 school year when we are actually there.

Good luck to you! :)

Our kiddos started out at Claire Lilienthal in SF, which is K-8 situated (K-2nd) at a smaller campus & (3-8th) at a larger campus.  Many students split between these campuses managed with carpools.

SF has a lottery system to get into the schools. You would need to look at the K-8 schools & list them in the application & show that you reside in SF with something like a utility bill for public school. There are public charter schools, they are less stringent about where you reside but you would need to find one that is K-8.

Good Luck!

I live in the Montclair village neighborhood of Oakland, which is wonderfully family oriented . My neighbors all send their kids to Montclair elementary (which is terrific) and very close to homes in the neighborhood. For middle school they send them to Monterra middle school by city bus. It picks up next to the elementary school. I see a bench full of neighbor kids waiting together each morning. The school doesn’t look so good on paper, but a neighbor is the pta president and she and other parents vouch for positive experiences there. My husband takes a trans bay bus from the village into downtown San Francisco, so commuting is easy. Don’t see that many rentals here, but they do come up. 

I would call or email the school district for accurate info about enrollment. 

The only place I can think of where everyone can walk everywhere (school and Bart/bus), and where the kids will be guaranteed space in a school is Albany. It is a self-contained school district, with just three elementary, one middle and one high school, so they can't get spread all over the city or sent to another city. Albany has a walking/biking culture, it is small and flat, and close to Bart, with SF commute buses going through as well.

I was in same situation last year. I came early, established residency. District would not register children until they had a year end transcript. We ended up not knowing where they were going to school until a few days before school started.

I have seen little in the way of k-8 options, though I’m not familiar with sf, 

Good luck. It’s not fun.

I can't speak for SF or East Bay but can for the peninsula were I tried to do a similar thing. We were there for just one year so I wanted to rent an apartment within walking distance of the elementary school so I had picked out about 4 possible apartment complexes in different cities that were close to 4 elementary schools I thought were best in 3 cities (Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos.  I then tried to get the school district registration offices to give me info on how crowded my son's grade level was in each of these schools so that I could figure out which apartment complex was best.  Well.  That was almost impossible. From their point of view, their schools are over-crowded and you will just be lucky to be assigned whatever school you get even if it's on the other side of town - which I understand, I just wanted to find out which schools I might have the best chance with and get an apartment nearby. 

They are very very resistant to this, no one wanted to give me that info even tho they can. They want you to go by their procedure which is get your place, provide your proof, they will try to assign you the closest school but be prepared to have to go anywhere. And this won't even be decided until the last week before school starts as that's when they have a better idea of who has left the district, who is on the waiting list and still might want to switch, then how many spaces there are if any, and then they will assign your spot. And these are the school districts that are supposedly well-run, but they are overwhelmed and unhelpful, really have a hardened attitude if you can't drive your kid across town every morning, too bad for you.

By persistence I ended up finding out how full the classes were for 5th grade at various schools and what the waiting lists were (which does not mean that those on the waiting list will actually still want to switch over) and took a gamble that paid off as I got the school I wanted.  But to figure that out for all 3 kids sounds really stressful.  I like the advise of Albany - a smaller school district where all the choices are relatively close.  That might be your best bet. 

One thing I haven't seen in the answers yet: Most school districts require proof of residency to enroll your child. That usually includes a utility bill or similar with one of the parents' names on it at the address where you reside.

You'll need proof of residency before the schools will accept you. But what helps is to find a place that has neighborhood schools (i.e. NOT San Francisco, which uses a lottery system), and then call the district and ask if any of those schools have spaces next year. Try Alameda. Chances are one of our schools can accommodate all 3 of your children, and Alameda is so small it will be a short walk/drive to the next school over. Just be warned--many of our schools are great, but not all. So best to look up the schools first and ask around, then choose your first, second, and third choice.

I'd caution you on Alameda.  Only one public school is k-8, Bay Farm.  So you'd probably have two stops for drop off and pick up.  One of the elementary schools, Lum, closed, resulting in the relocation of those students to the remaining elementary schools.  From my understanding only one or two elementary schools have openings this year.  Coming in after school selection will probably limit your choice of school and might place your kids in schools that are far apart.  But at least you should be able to get into a regular public school.  Unlike a charter, which will be full and doesn't have to accomodate you.  As several folks mentioned, Albany and Piedmont would be good options.  Both towns are far smaller than Alameda so your kids could walk to schools.  You could also think about towns farther out such as Orinda or Lafayette.  They are far more suburban but have good schools and BART stations in near their town centers.