How School Assignment Works in OUSD

Parent Q&A

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  • We're starting to research elementary schools for our incoming kindergartner. I'd love to hear from parents whose children currently attend Crocker Highlands Elementary.  It's our home school and is walking distance.

    I have a fairly opinionated, strong-willed but very sweet child. I have generally heard good things about this school but would love to hear more specifically about: (1) what your experience been with your child's teachers and administrators.

    (2) what sports and music classes can we expect for the lower grades (if any)

    (3) sense of community and opportunities for parents to volunteer and connect with one another (aside from fundraisers)

    I'm sure you will get lots of glowing responses from families at Crocker, but as a family of a neurodivergent child, who is intellectually precocious to boot, we had a dreadful time there. The former principal was well loved but not by us. It was strange that at the time of her departure the school had her sit on a throne and kids paraded around. No idea why anyone thought that was appropriate.
    The principal has since changed, but our interaction with the new principal during the 2 year delayed IEP process was shocking. She chewed gum, looked bored and clearly was doing a lot of other things during the zoom calls.
    The teachers are caring and invested, yet, they also solve any challenges with kids by sending them to the principal's office. I know this isn't how all public schools in Oakland operate, as a friend with a child similar to mine had a much different experience at Joaquin Miller. 
    We asked for an IEP assessment multiple times, which we were legally entitled to, and the school repeatedly deferred. Our child was finally assessed and found to have a disability that explains why they struggled with behavioral challenges. The former principal refused to support most of our asks for 2 years, and she continually blamed us for our child's struggles. We suggested in 1st grade that our child might be bored and were told it wasn't possible. During the pandemic, as I was supporting my kid's education, that suspicion was well-founded. They were reading at a 12th grade level in 3rd grade, based on school required assessments. 
    Parents are friendly enough, but there are a fair bit of non-inclusive behaviors. It's a wealthy community that doesn't seem to welcome difference very well. 
    For context, our younger child started kindergarten during the remote school era, and they had no trouble with most things. But I do think it's worth looking at the outliers to understand deeper cultural aspects. Those who fit the norm will be fine most places so it's not that informative to evaluate based on those criteria. 
    We withdrew both kids from the school and have zero regrets. 

  • Hi there...we're a family of four moving from East Coast to Berkeley/Oakland and are in need of info re: schools. Specifically looking to balance a *truly diverse* environment w/ strong academics. Public school system is ideal, but would consider affordable private - ideally, secular - for our 10 yr old (going into 5th gr). Per my research, Edna Brewer or Claremont Middle might be ideal for our 12 yr old; Oakland Tech HS is seemingly ideal next step. *Wondering...can she DEFINITELY attend Edna Brewer Middle or Claremont Middle if we live in one of those districts? Re: Oakland Tech, if you live in the district are you definitely assigned to that school? If we don't live in the district, is there lottery or choice and what's that like or how competitive is it? Considering Cleveland Heights Elementary or Peralta Elementary for our 10 yr old...wondering how people feel about these schools as well as the aforementioned middle schools and Oakland Tech? Finally, I keep reading about Oakland Unified merging schools based on low attendance--are any of the aforementioned schools likely to be affected by this? If so, are class sizes expected to increase by much? I like the idea of kids at lower-scoring schools receiving better/more opportunities at high-scoring schools, but am worried about class size and teaching approach in terms of equity. Thanks so much for reading and for any help/advice!

    Welcome! For Peralta and Cleveland, you're most likely to get in as a late applicant (which you will be if this is for next year) if you live in the neighborhood. You will go onto the waitlist behind on-time neighborhood applicants but ahead of on-time non-neighborhood applicants; for 5th grade, you're likely to get into either. Same is true for Claremont; Brewer is more in demand so may have more late applicant neighborhood families. Cleveland, Claremont, and Brewer are all diverse; Peralta is not as much (but still relatively diverse compared to many suburban schools, so depends on where you're coming from). You'll want to get a local address as soon as you can to get onto the waitlist. Note that schools zoned to Cleveland/Brewer are not zoned to Tech for high school, so if you are set on that and don't want to move before high school, you'd want to go the Peralta/Claremont route. Alternatively, you could rent for a couple of years in the Cleveland/Brewer zone and then move before high school. None of these schools are likely to be closed or merged. Class sizes are relatively consistent districtwide except at under-enrolled schools. You might also look at Sankofa United, which does have smaller class sizes than most North Oakland schools  because of a recent merger. It also feeds to Claremont/Tech.

    Welcome to the Bay Area!

    The school enrollment / lottery season is now. If you are showing up in August wanting to be assigned to your neighborhood school that is highly coveted (Edna Claremont, Cleveland, Peralta, etc.), you might not get in.  Peralta has consistently not been able to accept all of the neighborhood kids, so there's no guarantee. Cleveland has been able to accept most of the neighborhood kids. There was a year when not all of the neighborhood kids got into Cleveland, but it's not as consistent as other schools. I think you'll have a good chance of getting into Cleveland if you live in the area. (We are a former Cleveland family.) Many OUSD schools lose students at 4/5th grade as families transition to private school, so you may have better luck getting your 5th grader into your desired OUSD. In addition to Cleveland and Peralta, there are other OUSD schools. Chabot has had a demographic changes and is more diverse now. Glenview and Sequoia are other good elementary schools and have diversity. 

    If you live in the school zone, you are higher on the selection list. Siblings of current students are picked first and then the neighborhood kids.  If there are spots left over after all neighborhood kids have been offered a spot, then it goes to the general lottery.  For 5th grades, sibling preference isn't an issue, if you live in the area, your chance of getting in is extremely high. 

    For middle school, I have not heard of neighborhood kids not getting into Edna or Claremont. I know kids outside the zone getting into these schools. For Oakland Tech, for the past 2 years, I have not heard of any neighborhood kid not getting in and my friend's kid who lives outside the zone got into Tech for this school year. Tech is a big urban school and can be overwhelming but my friend's child who is quiet and artistic seems to have found their artsy group and seems to be doing ok. 

    None of the schools you mentioned is on the impact list for the upcoming mergers.  Most affordable secular private schools that I'm aware of are Crestmont School in Richmond (~21k/yr, K - 8), Mills College Children School ~22k, K - 5) in Oakland, Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland (~$1900 / month, Elementary only). Other secular private schools cost around $30k. Financial aid is available, and application deadline has passed for private schools but many have rolling admissions, so I encourage you to contact the schools.  If you have your hearts set on living in Oakland or Berkeley, a commute to Richmond might be a stretch. but, if you are open to living in North Berkeley/El Cerrito/Richmond, Crestmont will be wonderful for you. When we were looking to switch our child from OUSD to private, we looked at Crestmont due to its attractive tuition. We couldn't figure out how to make the commute work as we live in central Oakland. There are also charter schools that you can consider -- Oakland School for the Arts is highly regarded, if your child is artistic. East Bay Innovation Academy is a popular charter school as well. Good luck!

    OUSD class size is large. It always has been and will be. Many popular schools are at capacity and have maximum allowed student numbers in class. 

    We attend Cleveland and love it. Really strong and open armed community for families that join after kindergarten.

    We have 2 kids at Skyline HIgh School which is one you should consider. It is a gorgeous campus up in the hills, has amazing administration and class offerings and gets overshadowed by Oakland Tech. It is smaller than Tech, has a closed campus (this last year Oakland Tech has had a lot of issues with open campus and non students hanging out across the street and causing a lot of problems). I would just encourage you to do your research and get to know a few OUSD high schools. We had kids at Montera which was a good place for them and our older child wanted to go to Tech bc that is all she heard you had to do. But we were zoned for Skyline and has always been happy, safe and has done very very well and is waiting to hear from public and private schools. The counselors and admins care, reach out when they see your kid may need something. The class selection is really good and i am always impressed on the offerings. I just encourage you to look around and not go off "must go to this school bc...."

    Welcome and enjoy the Bay Area! 

    We applied for the inter-district transfer for our K-8 child for the Berkeley School District.  The Districts have been quite forgiving for allowing kids to attend the schools outside of Berkeley as long as you are considerably close.  Now is definitely a time to register for the lottery as most public schools will be closing their waitlists rather quickly.  

    If you need some help finding a place to transfer to that is not as bad of a commute, let me know. I would be glad to help! 

    Welcome to the East Bay! We’re actually in the middle of a move to the East Coast, so have similar questions but in the other direction! I’m not sure what gender your 10-year old is, but if you have a boy who would like a smaller school, I’d suggest checking out Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA). It’s a secular, private choir school (no music experience necessary) with a very intimate elementary-grade 8 day school. It’s located in the Piedmont Ave area, just up the street from Oakland Tech. The tuition for elementary is very modest compared to the bigger private schools. The boys at PBA split their time between music and academics, and have the opportunity to sing and travel around the world. The kids I met there were astonishingly poised and all-around great kids.

    Thank you to everyone who responded...such helpful thoughts, suggestions, and feedback...we very much appreciate it!

  • Hello, 

    We live on Oakland hills, our neighborhood school used to be Kaiser Elementary. However, Kaiser is permanently closed due to funding issues. Our new assigned neighborhood school is Chabot Elementary according to OUSD website, which is the closest school to our home. 

    I do not know if that means enrollment will be guaranteed? Or is it still possible that we will get assigned to another school?  If so , we will have to search for other options in advance. 

    Thanks for any advice and your time. 

    OUSD has some great dashboards RE chances of getting into your neighborhood school/ other schools, applications received vs offers etc.

    Proximity to school is one of the bigger priorities when they assign schools so if you list Chabot as your first choice (you’ll rank up to 7 schools in all of OUSD thanks you’re interested in - not including charters), then yes Chabot should be your assigned school. But other factors come in to play as the district grapples with diversity issues so there’s a chance you may get bumped. 
    You can apply through the district, list Chabot as your first choice. They’ll respond and give you a spot either at Chabot or another school. And place you on the waitlist at Chabot.  You can just refuse your spot at the other school if you don’t want it and wait on the waiting list for any other schools you put on your list (including Chabot) and then look at other options. 
    Schools assignments for this year have already gone out so if it’s for this year, you’ll know fairly quickly once you apply if you have a spot at Chabot. 
    We didn’t want our neighborhood school and ranked it as 7th. We got into another school instead and we’re pleased. 

    I'm a current Chabot parent. Generally speaking, the neighborhood preference still exists for all OUSD schools, and given the size of Chabot, it is currently able to accommodate 100% of in-neighborhood kids + a good number of out of neighborhood kids. Unless there is some crazy demographic shift next year (like a thousand new families with school-aged kids moving into your neighborhood), that should remain the case. But what year are you asking about?

    If you are asking about the indefinite future... the answer is maybe. When Kaiser was combined with Sankofa, OUSD folded the Kaiser attendance area into the Chabot attendance area on a trial basis. It's unclear whether the neighborhood lines will stay exactly as they are now over the long term. The district is also engaging in a process of revisiting enrollment policies as a whole, so over the next few years, things might change.

    Either way, I encourage you to visit multiple schools regardless. We live in the Chabot neighborhood and just took our neighbors' word for it that it's a "great" school and enrolled our eldest child without doing more visiting or deep thinking about it. I reasoned that we'd try our neighborhood public school and could change course later if it turned out not to be a great fit. I now regret that decision. Chabot is indeed a great school in a lot of ways, but in some ways it's not right for our family and doesn't fit my values and educational philosophy. I wish I had explored more before taking the plunge. I was naive to think it would be easy to change course! Now that our kids are settled and have their friends, etc. it's really hard.

    Best of luck to you.

    It's highly likely that you'll get into Chabot. Neighborhood kids get second priority (after the siblings of the kids who are already there) and Chabot is so big that there are usually plenty of spots (like, 50 percent is my recollection) for kids from outside of the neighborhood.

    No, you are not guaraunteed that you will get a spot at your neighborhood school. But you do get priority. It's explained here on the website:

    Some schools have no problems with all the neighborhood students getting in and have a large percentage of out of neighborhood students. One school we looked at was about 50/50. And some there are neighborhood kids who don't get in. So, you may want to participate in the lottery, tour other schools and put others on your list. I'm not sure where Chabot falls on the spectrum but hopefully other people will know. Some information about demand for individual schools can be found on

    Although enrollment is never guaranteed, Chabot is a large school and is reliably a school that takes in all of neighborhood kids and some kids from outside the zone as well. So, unlike Crocker, Thornhill, or Peralta (and some other smaller and popular schools), your chance of getting into Chabot is very high. 

    Neighborhood school placement is not guaranteed in OUSD, but in my experience with two kids who went to Chabot, Claremont Middle and Tech, as long as you apply for your neighborhood school during the regular application period and list your neighborhood school as your number 1, or only, choice, you are likely to get in.  I have put down our neighborhood schools (those listed above) as our only choice and have always gotten in, including to Tech for this coming fall.

  • Applying to Kindergarten during Covid

    (5 replies)

    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!


    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.

  • Is Claremont hills BUSD or OUSD?

    (3 replies)

    Hello all - I am planning to buy a home in Claremont hills with a Berkeley address but having a hard time finding out what schools are zoned for the neighborhood. I checked the BUSD website, but the street name there is not listed. Anyone here who lives in Claremont with elementary school age kids ? Also, my wife and I will both be commuting to SF. What’s the best transport option from there ? I have heard Transbay route E works best. Is that true ?

    Check Oakland Unified's site--there are a number of homes in the Claremont hills that are actually in Oakland and are served by Oakland schools despite having Berkeley addresses, so if the street does not appear on the BUSD site, you are probably looking at one of these. (You can also tell by looking at the Alameda County Assessor's website--you will see either Oakland or Berkeley taxes listed for the property, except in some really unusual situations with split parcels.) The Oakland schools that serve Claremont-area homes are generally well regarded, although it is worth following the situation with Kaiser Elementary, which may move (which would likely lead to changes in the school zone boundaries).

    Hi there,

    We recently moved to a neighborhood close to yours. You’ll be in the South Berkeley zone, so your kid will be eligible to go to John Muir, Malcolm X, Emerson, and Le Conte/Sylvia Mendez.

    Both of us work in the city but we’ve been using the Bart (we live mid way between Ashby and  Rockridge stations, so we’re able to get into the Richmond or Pittsburg/Antioch lines. I don’t have experience with the Transbay network.

    Hope this helps!


    Call BUSD and OUSD registration.  Provide the exact address and ask about zoning.  The online maps can sometimes be misunderstood/incorrect.  I know two families that looked at the online maps, and they were pretty upset to find out that their house wasn’t zoned the way they expected.

    If possible, see if the school registrar can put your zoning in writing.  I called to confirm my zoning, but it took a few weeks to get straightened out when I registered my kids for school.  I didn’t think to try to get it in writing when I bought my house, but that would have saved me a bit of stress while things were getting sorted out.

  • Hi there, 

    We're looking at possibly moving to Oakland in the next month or so.  We are looking at homes in the public school districts we'd want them to attend, but...don't know the enrollment processes, etc.  If we move into a specific school district, will our daughter be able to go to that school, or could it be impacted by the lottery system (which I know just a little about), especially since we may be a little late. Thanks!

    I have a family member that works for EFC and I have friends that work in OUSD. My daughter is just entering kinder this year (August 2019) so I'm new to this as well. I  do believe the way it works is as follows

    1. Alumni families
    2. siblings of those attending 
    3. living in district or closest by address
    4. everyone else

    A SIGNIFICANT amount of public schools are closing down this year, and there is a lottery for most charter schools. You can apply to as many as you want, but it's random choice in which ones you're offered a position in or on the waitlist. 

    You can apply to both public and private charter schools from the same site and there is a really useful tool on the website that can help you filter through schools by what you're looking for or location or both. The same site also provides details to the schools past year performance, demographics, and any citations etc. So I would say explore the site and ACTUALLY VISIT some of the schools you're interested in!

    From the OUSD website

    Students that apply on time are assigned to schools through a lottery, based on the school choices indicated on their enrollment application and taking into account OUSD placement priorities. The process is designed to provide each student equitable access to the range of opportunities available throughout the District. Students are placed in their highest ranked school if there are openings at that school.  

    If there are more requests for a school than openings, the student placement process uses a series of priorities to determine the assignment the student will receive.  

    Prioritization is given to students who:

    • first: have a sibling(s) in a school, that will continue at the school during 2018-19
    • second: live within the neighborhood boundaries of the desired school.

    All remaining applicants that are not prioritized by sibling or neighborhood will be placed into the general lottery. Parents are encouraged to select six elementary schools or three middle/high schools they wish their child to attend to ensure that their child receives one of their selections.

    Just to address one of the previous replies, it is worth clarifying that OUSD prioritizes siblings of current students who will still be attending the school, and then students living within the school's attendance boundary. Alumni families do not get any priority in the lottery (unfortunately!) and proximity to the school also does not matter if you are not zoned to it (also unfortunately!) There is one middle school closing and another long-planned merger of two West Oakland elementary schools--but no other District schools are closing this year (fortunately!)

    To your specific question, though--you have a strong chance of getting a spot at most elementary schools even with a late application because you keep your neighborhood priority so will be at the top of the list. A few schools don't have room for neighborhood kids who are zoned to the school (e.g., Peralta, Crocker Highlands) so those would be more of a gamble since there may still be neighborhood families with on-time applications who are waiting for spots. But at most other schools, you have a very good chance of getting into the school. Just apply as soon as possible once your address is established--the lottery lists are already moving.

  • Lottery for older elementary children

    (1 reply)

    I'm wanting to find out if there is much movement in grades other than kindergarten- that is, if we relocated (we are currently in the Peninsula), are there any spaces in first or second grade for most schools? :)


    Assuming you're asking about Oakland, which is the only East Bay district that really runs a lottery--yes, there are usually some spots in first and second grade at most schools, though the same priorities (sibling, neighborhood) apply to assign these spots. Note that school enrollment for 2019-20 is already underway, so if you're looking at moving for the next school year, you would be a late applicant (and thus lower on the list). If you are wondering about Berkeley, you go through the school assignment process based on where you live, just as you do for kindergarten enrollment. For both districts, if you move mid-year, all bets are off and you usually choose among any current openings (which will vary year to year).

  • OUSD-how to appeal K placement?

    (11 replies)

    We just received my son's Kindergarten assignment in OUSD.  We got NONE of our 6 choices in the options process.  Instead, we got assigned to our neighborhood school, which is rated in the lowest tier.  So, what do we do?  OUSD has placed us on the waitlist for all of our 6 choices.  And some people tell me that we just have to wait.  Others say we must appeal, but I can find nothing about HOW the appeal process works.  Still others tell me I need to camp out at the Student Welcome Center and make a general nuisance of myself for endless days on end.  I am confused and frustrated.  I just want what is best for my son.  Honestly, we would be happy with ANY of the 6 schools we listed.  Our highest waitlist is #27 for Cleveland, and we are interested to know more about your experiences with this school.  We are waitlisted #69 for Kaiser.  What is the wisdom of this group?  

    Thank you! Christy

    Sorry to hear this, we are in the same boat. Got assigned to Emerson. 

    Chabot was our first choice we’re number 169 on the wait list 

    103 Crocker Highland 

    229 Montclair 

    and so on. I guess this year you can’t file an appeal you just wait and wait to see if something better opens up. Which is not likely given these numbers. 

    Do you work in a different school district? Maybe apply for a district transfer and try your luck that way? 

    You just have to wait, unfortunately. The appeals process is no longer in place; it's been replaced with the waitlist process. Having had a kid go through each, the new waitlist process is much, MUCH better--with appeals, you had to pick a single school to be on the waitlist for, and if you chose wrong and it didn't move--oh, well! With the new process you get to stay on lists for all of the schools you ranked, so you have a shot at multiple schools. (Remember that everyone else gets to do this too, so the people ahead of you on the list may well be on lists for other schools that they want more--I would expect things to shuffle significantly as people headed to private or charters decline their spots and then others bump into them.) Also know that even in the old system, the majority of people seemed to land in their neighborhood schools for the first round--things do move, and will this year as well (just more transparently than in the past!)

    Hi. I just wanted to offer sympathy, because you wrote, "I just want what is best for my son." I'd also like to say, doesn't everyone want the best for their children? I wish American schools were equitable - that ALL schools, irrespective of neighborhood or the demographic of the students - could provide excellent educational experiences for our kids. 

    The appeals process is spelled out pretty clearly on the OUSD website. Please don't camp out in the school assignment office! Those patient and hardworking people cannot do anything magical for you and honestly, they already have enough to deal with.

    Just want you to know that you are not alone.  We did not get our #1 choice which IS our neighborhood school, albeit Crocker Highlands which has seen an influx of children as of late, and is a small school, nor did we get any of our other choices.  This happened to at least 10 families in our neighborhood, maybe more.  We all got placed at Bella Vista which wasn't on any of our lists.  Turns out, if you can not get into your neighborhood school due to too many children in your neighborhood, then you get assigned to a school in your middle school district.  This was a surprise to most of us, and I personally hadn't seen it in any of the enrollment documentation, only the follow up FAQ after selection.  

    We are high on the Crocker waitlist, so we have some hope, but no guarantee.   We are unsure about what we are going to do as Bella Vista is not a good fit for our family or my very shy daughter.  We were looking forward to transitioning into a local school where many of her pre-school friends go.

    A group in our neighborhood is planning to provide feedback to OUSD so that this can be avoided in the future.  They need better messaging and improvements to the process so that there are fewer surprises.  No advice other than to wait it out.  You are above us on the Cleveland list, which is our next highest placement,  if that is any consolation.

    As someone else stated the new appeal process is the automated wait list process. We live in the Thornhill school boundary, and somehow my son didn't even get a spot there and got wait listed. It was our first choice since it is less than a mile from my house. I stopped by the admission's office yesterday and they said to wait till after the March 29th deadline and there will be some movement after that and possibly having to wait until the school year starts. Of course that just leaves us extra anxious.

    I couldn't find anything about appeals for this year--I'm pretty sure it is strictly waitlist. I also got none of my six choices. If it makes you feel better, here's where we landed. 

    199 Crocker Highland

    105 Lincoln

    171 Cleveland

    199 Thornhill


    I toured Cleveland, and really liked it. Have heard positives from other parents as well. 

    Good luck!

    You don't mention which is your neighborhood school that you got assigned to, but I'm wondering whether you've toured or seriously considered it? The school ratings don't always tell the full story and there are a number of Oakland schools that are improving with more to offer more than you might expect. In our neighborhood, many dismiss the neighborhood school without ever having stepped foot inside it. We decided to give it a chance, got involved and our daughter is flourishing there. They have programs that people are always surprised to hear they have - science, music, computers, PE, library visits. I think if more people chose and supported their neighborhood, we wouldn't have all this stress about where to send our kids to school. The highly desirable schools got that way because parents got involved. And if you haven't toured, give them a call and ask for one - they'd probably be happy to show you the school.

    I disagree that this system is better than the previous appeals process.  Currently, if one family was assigned one of their choices, they are automatically given a waitlist number for all of their higher-ranked choices.  There is absolutely no incentive for them to remove themselves from these waitlists, because "what if?" They can stay on these waitlists up to 10 days into the school year.  Meanwhile, other families who were offered none of their choices are likely sitting in line between these others who are hedging their bets.  Is it fair for one family to be offered 3-4 schools before others are even offered one choice?  No, it's not.  Do you know that other families have received multiple offers to schools?  We received offer letters from all six of our choices, plus our area school.  A lucky glitch, perhaps, but that shouldn't be happening either.  This system is totally broken and people need to speak up. As it is, kindergarteners are going to be shifting around all through the month of August.  That happened before too, but this year it will be even more so.

    There seem to be a lot of misperceptions about what the old appeals process was and wasn't. The appeals process was simply the system for creating the waitlists in years past. You had to stand in line for a couple of hours to submit a piece of paper listing the school you preferred to the school you had been assigned. There was a section on the form to explain why you were appealing, but OUSD didn't weigh individual reasons to determine which kids were granted their appeals--they simply ran a new lottery of everyone who appealed for a given school (keeping neighborhood and sibling priorities in place) and the first x names got into the school after some of the initially assigned students declined. Everyone else went onto a waitlist and got called if/when spots opened up, right through the second week of school. It is the same process as this year's waitlists, except that this year it is automatic, and you essentially "appeal" for all of the schools on your list rather than just one. That does mean that all of the lists are longer, but they will also likely move much more quickly as spots begin to open up after the March 29th deadline (since a family accepting a spot at a school they ranked highly will come off the other wait lists). In past years when families had to choose a single waitlist, there were many that simply didn't move at all. The old appeals process especially favored those who had already been assigned to a school on their list; they could then appeal for a school they wanted more and know they had a safe place to land. It was an especially bad process for those who had been redirected from their neighborhood schools, though--they had to choose between appealing for the neighborhood school in order to stay on the list or trying for a different school where the odds might be better. And it was terrible for parents who couldn't take several hours off of work or easily get to the Grand Lake area during the day--they couldn't participate in appeals at all. At the end of the day, I do think this new process is going to mean more families getting into at least one school they chose--but only time will tell, and it certainly makes sense to ask OUSD for a debrief this fall to understand how the numbers work out in the end and how that compares to recent years.

    We're one of those families who didn't get into any of the schools on our list--for the second year in a row. And we're also one of those families who is really grateful for the new assignment system. Last year, we appealed for a school that everyone told us we would "definitely" get into. Well--we didn't get in, because everyone else appealed there too. This year, it's a huge relief to be able to stay on wait lists for all of the schools we chose and not have to choose one wait list blindly. (Good thing, too, because by far our worst wait list spot is at the school we heard would be easiest to get into after kindergarten!) Is it ideal that there are families ahead of us on some of those lists who've already gotten into a school on their list? Of course not--but if the alternative is a system where you just get what you get and can only choose one school's wait list, I'll gladly take having a few luckier folks ahead of me on the list. If they do get in, that will open up spots at all the other schools on their lists, including the spot they were fortunate enough to get in the first place. So my child will have a better shot at all of those schools as she bumps up the list. Last year, the lists just froze, for the most part, after an initial shuffle following the confirmation deadline. Most people we knew who didn't get in by April didn't get in at all. This year, I have hope that things will continue to move, albeit slowly, through the spring and even into the summer.

    I don't debate that the system is unfair. Fair is having a high quality school in every neighborhood, so no one feels the need to go into Options in the first place. But we're a long, long way from there, and in the meantime, this year's system does feel like it levels the playing field a little over the old system, even if it means the waiting game might go on a little longer.

  • Oakland Public School Assignment Date?

    (2 replies)


    The Oakland School District says that they will send out school assignments for new students sometime in Spring, 2018, but I'm trying to find out a more specific time.  Does anyone know when assignment letters were sent in 2017?


    Our OUSD school assignment letter last year was dated 3/6/17, but I seem to remember we received it later than that -- I think they were aiming to get them out this week, but timing can be somewhat...fluid...with OUSD. Hang in there!

    Hello, OUSD said all school assignments would be completed by Monday, March 19 AM. We received an email with our assignment that morning, others received a day or so prior. I see your post was March 8, so by now you should have received yours. If you are looking for aftercare too, I emailed the Adventure Time program, who said it will send forms out via snail mail on April 25. 

  • OUSD Lottery for K After TK Enrollment

    (1 reply)

    Hello OUSD Parents,

    I'm curious if anyone has info/experience on submitting the lottery a second time for Kinder after already having a school for TK. 

    If we don't receive any of our new K choices in the lottery, do we get to stay at our current school, or do I lose that spot and have to take the new assignment? If we add two or three choices to our options form, should we also list our currently enrolled elementary school again? 

    We've been satisfied with our TK experience & the community of our assigned school (not our neighborhood zoned school) but are thinking of doing the OUSD options again for K. The main reason is that our current school seems to decline on in-class achievement each subsequent grade, we aren't terribly thrilled with their After Care offering, and if we have a chance to get into a school on our commute route & near our preschool, it could make mornings an evenings less hectic. If we stayed where we are, we would most likely remain satisfied for another year or two, but the chance to see what else could happen is appealing. 

    Any thoughts? 

    When you submit the Options form, only list schools that you would attend over your current school. If that means you only list two or three, that's fine. In past years, this meant that if you didn't get one of those, the system would bounce you back to your current school, even if not your neighborhood school (but confirm this for this year's enrollment process, since the online assignment system this year is new!) I do know that if you get into one of the schools you list, you lose your spot at your current school--it's not a situation where you then get to weigh your options. Good luck!

  • Oakland school lottery myths

    (2 replies)

    hi, I’m hoping to gain some insight and debunk some ousd myths about the school lottery system. A friend just told me that you may gain priority in the lottery if you submit your application sooner in the open enrollment time. This goes contrary to all logical thought since most schools don’t tour until December and enrollment starts mid November. The city itself doesn’t even do a school fair until December. Is there any truth or founded rumor to this? 

    Also, if you don’t get your first choice are your chances higher of getting your second or third? I’ve heard of people playing the lottery in sf (putting their first choice second or third). 

    We are hoping for a non neighborhood school so mainly wanting to know if there is anything to the rumor of time of submission having anything to do with your chances. 

    Thank you!!!

    We optioned last year for TK. It was their 1st year using an online system (or so I was informed). They don't even collect the data until the close of the lottery window. Perhaps when it was paper, there were people starting an early tally, but that is not a lottery, that's 1st come 1st serve. What is true is that OUSD works out the lottery results for applications submitted within the options window before they look at late applications. Perhaps that's where the "sooner application' priority myth originated.

    A friend of mine put her 1st choice as #1, 2 and 3 on her child's option form. She suggested we do the same convinced it made statistical sense. OUSD told me that is not how it works, and when I filled out our online application it wasn't even physically possible. You can't use the same school twice in the digital form. 

    The one thing that did help us was putting a "safety school" (i know, sounds awful) in the lower rank of our list. No one in my neighborhood wants our neighborhood school. There were 5 kids in the surrounding blocks applying for TK. Of course everyone tried for the star schools, and everyone who didn't put a "safety school" was assigned our neighborhood school. Everyone of us who did put a school with a better chance, were placed in the lower ranked/with less demand school.  One family stayed in Pre-k, and a few petitioned for another placement. 

    The welcome center urged us to put the schools down in order of our preference. 

    My experience is also with TK. That is a fraction of the student population and quite a few desirable schools still do not offer that grade, so the statistical properties of that lottery are a little different, and weren't reported separately in the OUSD book to give insight into some hidden strategy. 

    There is zero truth to this (although apparently it was once the case--many years ago--that applications were first come-first serve and people lined up in the wee hours to submit them, and we were actually at an open house last year where a retired administrator told parents this, causing some panic!) In today's enrollment process, all on-time applications are processed at the same time. In the past, I believe the lottery has assigned a number to each application and when your turn rolled around, it ran through your list of schools looking for open spots before defaulting to your neighborhood school if none were available, so there was no particular benefit to listing a less in-demand school first (but certainly a benefit to not stacking your list with schools that are all hard to get into). That also explains why there's no benefit to listing the same school three times--if there's not a spot, there's not a spot. You're not getting a raffle ticket (as in some charter assignment processes where numbers are drawn and certain priorities might get you extra entries). However, I understand that the assignment process is moving online this year (last year just the applications were collected online, but the lottery was not run in the online system) so that may be handled differently--I'd ask and see.

  • I realize I'm starting to worry about this a little too soon, but wondering if anyone has any recent info on OUSD lotteries. Past questions/comments seem to be from several years ago. We'll be trying our luck with the OUSD lottery in a few months and I'm wondering if anyone has recently gotten in to Cleveland, Glenview, or Sequoia Elementary Schools with the lottery. I know all three are very good schools - though not at the very tip top - and I'm wondering if we have any chance of getting in. I've heard that Kaiser can be easier to get in to and I'm thinking I should at least have it on my list. Any advice or experiences to share are very welcome! For bonus points, I'm also looking for any info on Oakland Charter Schools - North Oakland Charter? American Indian Public? Anyone have any charter school experience to share?

    North Oakland Charter School had 5 available kindergarten spots this year, as they prioritize siblings and then faculty's kids (seems like a problematic ranking, but then...charter schools are problematic). We were in the neighborhood with preference after those criteria and we were 125th on the waitlist. Don't really understand how that's possible, but anyway....We got into Glenview, which was 3rd on our list, but we also had neighborhood priority.

    Good luck!

    My son goes to the East Bay Francophone Charter School. It is a start-up, so you have to be okay with that environment, which has its pluses and minuses. For example, the location is gritty, and while we are actively looking for a larger space, it's hard to say what will happen, or when. Everyone can get involved with shaping the school's identity, which (for me) is exciting and worthwhile. The educational experience is top-notch, and that's why we will stay. It is full immersion: 80% of the day is in French for the younger students. Without a doubt, your child will become bilingual. This is very good for the brain, no matter what the second language. On top of that, teachers trained in the French educational system receive superb pedagogical preparation--significantly better, in general, than teacher prep programs here in the US. The English teacher last year was terrific too. The school is very diverse socio-economically, ethnically, racially. There is an active, friendly, inclusive parent community, both native speakers and non-French speakers. Come to an open house and see for yourself!

  • Late OUSD Enrollment (General Questions)

    (1 reply)

    Hi All, I'm really interested in enrollment in OUSD, specifically for people moving into the area right before school starts. We're moving in late July/early August and haven't yet settled on a neighborhood. (We'll be visiting soon to make this decision.) Because of the lottery system I feel a bit overwhelmed with living in Oakland although several neighborhoods seem quite nice. So I'm trying to gather as much information as I can.  Because OUSD emphasizes the "no guarantees" I'm wondering how likely it is that my twin soon to be 1st graders will be assigned to either the school in our neighborhood, or one of the ones nearby - or if I'll be driving across Oakland in the morning to drop them off somewhere opposite of the way I need to be headed for work. I'm also a bit worried that they may not be assigned the same school. This is similar to a question from last month about Peralta specifically but I'm more interested in your general experiences across the district.  The archives have helped but I'm looking for something a bit more updated. Thanks so much!

    If you are moving to Oakland and registering in July/August, most of the schools will be full.  OUSD does not reserve spaces for kids who move to an area after the Options enrollment process.  OUSD can let you know which schools have spots, and they will definitely work with you to try to get both twins in the same school.  The schools with open spots in July will be undesirable with poor test scores.  You can get on the waiting list for one school (and only one).  Sometimes spots open up the week before school starts up and up to the second week of school.  After the second week of school, OUSD does not allow enrollment changes.  There is no way to know whether your kids will get a spot in one of your preferred schools, since enrollment patterns change each year.  It seems like different schools are "impossible" to get into each year.

    I highly recommend a backup plan for schools.  Apply for charter schools to get on their waiting lists, too.  Expand your home search beyond Oakland.  Other cities have their own enrollment processes, but OUSD's is particularly difficult for families moving to Oakland.

  • Late enrollment at OUSD (Peralta)

    (1 reply)

    Hi. Moving to Oakland in mid-July and will be zoned for Peralta. We are obviously well past the enrollment deadline and are nervous we won't get our 1st grade son in due to overcrowding.  Has anyone experienced something like this and how did you handle?

    I called OUSD and got almost no information other than an emphasis on how no spot was guaranteed. ("You can live across the street and not get in!")

    Is there a database anywhere as to how many zoned kids got into a particular school?  Thanks so much for any guidance.

    Go to Peralta and talk to the principal, Rosette Costello.  If anyone can give you info, it's her.  She's an amazing principal.

  • Hi,

    We're currently renting in North Oakland, and considering purchasing a home nearby. One of the obvious considerations is schools, which is not an issue now but will be in 4 years. The specific home we're considering is in the Peralta district. How concerned do I need to be that, a few years from now, the school will be over-enrolled and families in the neighborhood will be turned away? How often does that actually happen?

    Any info/advice would be much appreciated!

    Hi there. We moved away from Oakland a while back, but both our kids went to our local highly-sought-after elementary school. Maybe someone has more current info, but I am pretty sure that it is Hillcrest that is the only school where a few neighborhood kids are turned away because it is full. And that is mostly because it goes beyond 5th grade. Chabot might be a little that way now with the new campus, anybody know? But pretty much any other school, if you live within the boundaries for that school, is where your kids will go. It is not the horrendous cross-town nightmare that SF has. But here is the thing: if you have your heart set on a particular school, be very, very mindful about exactly where the boundaries lie, house by house, for that school. A colleague of mine and her husband bought a house that was 1 block from the school they wanted and their realtor had told them it was in that school zone. But, it was actually part of a different school zone which they did not find out about until after they bought. They fought for 2 years to get their daughter in the school 1 block from their house, unsuccessfully.  Also, in the Montclair district, the kids who are 3 homes down from Thornhill Elementary school are zoned for Montclair Elementary, and they end up walking about 4 blocks to the other school. So, be careful about the zone the house you are looking at is in. And with the housing market the way that it is, it is very hard to be that picky about location. We moved 2 years ago, after first selling our house to have money for the down payment on the new one,  and after living in AirB&Bs for many months while putting out bids, we ended up buying in a neighborhood that we had never considered because it was the only place that we could afford the overbidding wars. But we are super happy now and glad that we did. Best to you guys.

    Regarding Peralta overenrollment, it's happened at least twice in the last 3-4 years and that won't change. However, if you're in the neighborhood the odds are very, very good you'll get a spot. I believe there are only a handful of kindergartners who don't.  The odds are certainly in your favor, though not a guarantee.

    My daughter is a kindergartener at Peralta, we are in the joint district of Peralta and Sankofa. The other poster is correct, this has been a concern since we moved here 13 years ago. We were told when applying that the previous year (2015-16) was the first year that kids from the neighborhood didn't get in and they ended up creating an additional class. It was a K/1 mixed class that ended up being quite small because so few Kindergarteners took them up on their offer of a spot. I can't promise this is true, but that is what I was told. This year, I can tell you that a number of families from outside of the district got in during the first week of school.

    You also may want to consider that the enrollment policies of the OUSD may not be the same in 4 years. Inequities in Oakland schools is a hot topic right now.

    Thanks everyone for the info. Super helpful.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions about How School Assignment Works

Moving to Oakland: Zillow's school boundaries differ from OUSD's

May 2015

In researching the Peralta and other elementary school boundary areas, I've noticed that zillow is showing different boundaries from the ones available via the OUSD site. I've also noticed that the pdf on the OUSD site is inconsistent with the ''map stacker'' maps that generate when you enter an address.

For example:

- Zillow show the Peralta boundary to extend all the way to Dover on the west while stopping at 59th St on the South. OUSD shows the southern boundary going all the way to Highway 24.

- Zillow shows Cleveland Elemenary boundary as never going west of Lakeshore Ave while OUSD shows it going as far west as Grand and north to the edge of Piedmont.

Which of these sources is the most accurate and up to date? I have also read some comments on this site from the past year that reference new boundaries being in the works, but have no idea if already implemented.

Any insight is appreciated. We are in the process of moving into Oakland and our preschooler's elementary boundary is one of our primary means of targeting a place to live. steve

Trust the OUSD website, of course. Sarah

Sorry you're encountering this frustration! Zillow's maps are wrong, and have been for some time--they are still using the pre-2012 maps that do not reflect school closures and realignment of some boundaries (including Peralta's). I've actually emailed them about this several times but apparently it is not a priority for them. This is also why some homes show up on Zillow as having no assigned elementary school--every Oakland address does indeed have a school assigned, but since Zillow removed the closed schools but did not update the boundaries, it gets pretty confusing. You can get the official maps on OUSD's website: All boundary changes have been implemented at this point, and no new changes are planned in the near term (though of course things could change). Always doublecheck the school zone by putting the address into the OUSD site, since that is what the District goes by in assigning schools. Redfin also has the correct boundaries. Good luck, and welcome to Oakland! Another OUSD parent

In regards to the boundaries for Peralta school, I would assume the OUSD site is more accurate than zillow. However, the reason I am responding is to let you know that residence within the neighborhood boundaries is by no means a guarantee that your child will attend your school of choice. In reducing class size (definitely a good thing for the students), some well-regarded schools are not able to serve as many families. I know of multiple parents of would-be peralta kindergarteners in the neighborhood who did not get in for the 2015-16 year. Just a heads up. Megan

Hi, I would email, and call, the district AND the school, to be sure. The district went through a round of school closings 1-2 yrs ago and not all changes may have propagated correctly. Also, I've noticed that the school district's site can be out of date -budget cuts, presumably- always check that page's revision date. OUSD parent

Worried we might not get into our neighborhood school

Dec 2014

hello, I am relatively new to the area and am facing the kindergarten enrollment process for my daughter. i know that my neighborhood school is a very competitive one, and i am trying to weigh the pros and cons of various K-5+ in our area. knowing that we might very well have preference for our most local school is great, but given its competitiveness, theres no guarantees. I'm wondering two things: if i shop around and put another school at the top of our OUSD list will we lose that advantage of being close by to an apparently great school but not our first choice in a perfect world, and also, i would love feedback about one particular school, Emerson elementary in Oakland, which i am so drawn to but seems to have super low ratings on test-based rating sites. we are also pretty in love with Kaiser, but it feels like maybe a long shot due to its desirability. We feel strongly that diversity (for real diversity), art-leaning curriculum, and community are far more important than testing scores, but im new at this game and would love some feedback. thanks so much in advance! Rebecca

Hi Rebecca,
If you're in the neighborhood, you'll very likely get into that school. There's only been a few instances in the past ten years where a school was oversubscribed: Hillcrest about 5 years ago, Redwood Heights about 6 years ago, and Crocker two years ago (though they added a fourth kindergarten class to solve that issue, and have since redrawn the boundaries). So I wouldn't put another school above your great neighborhood school unless you really prefer it. You'll probably still get your neighborhood school, in which case you could appeal for your first choice, which you'd probably get if someone else wants your neighborhood school (which it sounds like they would).

I don't know much about Emerson, but I would assume you'd have no trouble getting in there. Kaiser would be more of a gamble, but most kids there come from out of neighborhood so you'd have as much of a chance as anyone.

If you're looking for true diversity, community, and an arts-integrated curriculum, I suggest you look at Glenview Elementary (where my son goes). It's the most diverse school in the district, there's a strong focus on the arts, and the community is tight-knit, caring and down-to-earth. The principal is amazing and the kids are thriving. We couldn't be happier. If you haven't checked it out, we're having another tour on 1/12. Sign up at

I'm an Emerson parent, and am the one who leads the school tours so maybe I've met you. My daughter and our family are very happy at Emerson, love the teachers, the principal, and the community. I'm happy to answer specific questions if you want more info on Emerson.

In terms of school choice and the OUSD paperwork, my advice is to put your favorite school at the top. Last year was a low enrollment year and I think more people got their top choices. The enrollment office has demographic studies by year and maybe able to tell you if they expect to be over-subscribed at a particular school. Kia

Happy New Year!
Options Veteran

I would take the spot at the seemingly great local school, and here's why: it probably is great. AND it's in your neighborhood which is huge. It's easy to get to for your regular school day, and easy to get to for PTA meetings and other school events on nights and weekends. Your child's new friends will be in the neighborhood also and that is plain awesome (I speak from experience). My kids walk by themselves to their friends' houses. Carpooling to soccer and birthday parties is super-easy because there are at least five other neighbor families going to the same place. You will be simplifying your life by choosing your neighborhood school (and lucky you, that it's a good one).
in love with our Oakland neighborhood school

Our zone has 2 different schools, Peralta & Sankofa

May 2014

Hi all: We are trying to figure out what oakland elementary school we are in and I am confused by the boundary map on the OUSD website.

According to this map, we are in the Sankofa/Peralta area. But how do we know if we are in Sankofa or Peralta?? Is it lottery based? I could not find this information on the OUSD website for the life of me. I also tried calling the office, but no one has called me back yet. Can parents in the know please clue us in? -thanks so much! confused

As I understand it, Peralta and Sankofa share a catchment area and so you get to choose between the two schools. Good luck navigating OUSD--there are some truly exceptional schools and several disasters. OUSD mom

I think you'll get other answers, but in case you don't --

Peralta and Sankofa share the same school zone. If you live in the zone, you have missed the original registration period. You need to go down in person to OUSD and say you've moved into the zone (that's what it sounded like from your post) and need to register for Peralta. Peralta is heavily subscribed, but there's a mechanism to deal with kids who move into the zone after registration. I've been told by low-income and minority parents that the district tried to steer them to Sankofa. Go to both schools and check them out.

Have you read the the recent articles around the anniversary of the Brown v Board of Ed decision on the re-segregation of schools? Peralta and Sankofa are the epitome of that. Only 30% (old number) of the Sankofa students are from the zone, but if those students went to Peralta, it would completely change the racial and economic demographics of the school. I'm not bashing Sankofa -- my impression is they're doing a good, but difficult, job. Their students are overwhelmingly free/reduced lunch (they don't even have to do the paperwork, so it's assumed at least 80% but probably more). I do whatever I can to support the school.

Peralta recently lost Title 1 designation, because there are so few low-income kids. Having parents with resources translates into resources for the school, both through fundraising, volunteers, and direct donations. Given the level of funding in CA, that's what it takes to build a very sweet school with extracurriculars, all kinds of support, playground supervision, great aftercare, and an administration that really supports its teachers.

I've had two kids at Peralta and I believe that there is nowhere else we would have had such a good elementary experience. I do, however, find it shocking that these two schools exist in the same zone and the school board and district enabled it. It is the epitome of the segregation of public education in the US. Anne

Just to be very clear, the Sankofa and Peralta zones overlap only for a small area--not for the entire zones. I presume you live in this area, and that's why you're seeing a map for two schools show up when you enter your address into the OUSD School-Finder. This overlap is a legacy of Washington Elementary's closure and subsequent reopening as Sankofa. As one responder said, if you live in this area (a little square between Racine and Dover), you have priority at either school. However, most people are zoned to either Sankofa or to Peralta--not to both. The schools do not have the same zone. (OUSD School-Finder can tell you which school(s) you are zoned to if you enter your address.)

Foster parenting, finding a school mid-year

July 2013

My husband and I are in the foster-adopt process and concerned about how we find a school mid-year if we are fortunate enough to match with a child. Presently, we are limiting our search to children before school age, but we are considering adopting a slightly older child.

Our neighborhood school in Oakland was closed in the last round of school cuts. It was probably not a school we would have chosen for our child. The lottery and choice system has been daunting for people we know with children and for us we add in the factor of not really knowing when we will need to get a child in school. Frankly, we would prefer some schools to others, but are pretty sure we would have real trouble getting into one of them.

We are now considering moving to a school district where the system is a little easier to negotiate and where we feel we would have a better chance at being in a neighborhood school that has what we are looking for (arts engagement, relatively stable teaching force, active parent community, etc.).

I'm wondering if others have faced such a challenge or if anyone has advice based on navigating the various school systems mid year. Hopeful Concerned Dads

Hi There, I'm not a parent who's adopted a child but I'm a parent within OUSD. I'd call the school district's student assignment office & ask where students from your neighborhood are now being funneled since the school there has closed. It may be that a better school is an option from where you are now.

If it doesn't look good, then I strongly recommend that you consider moving to a better neighborhood for your new child's schooling. Our neighborhood school isn't good & we had a hard time getting into a better school. The district is currently trying to improve that process but realistically there are too many students and not enough good schools.

I would also consider that your new child may need services if he/she has been in foster care...totally not knowing this process so I can only guess that there may be emotional / behavioral needs and if that be the case then that should factor into your choice. Does the potential new neighborhood's school have services at the site? (They're all supposed to by law but many do not.) Or will the school accommodate such needs even if they don't have special programs there? Again, each student is supposed to have his/her needs met at their own neighborhood school, but it's not always the case w/ Oakland. I've never heard of a child not being able to enroll in a school mid-year, but I would verify that w/ the student assignment office as well as any potential new schools.

School sites are open in the summer for administrative purposes & usually there is at least a couple of staff members there to answer the phone or the door, in the morning hours. Group tours usually happen in the fall/winter for elementary schools. anon

I adopted my two boys (6 and 10) through the Alameda fost/adopt program. Since both of my sons were placed with me prior to elementary school, I didn't have your problem (but finding child care was difficult not knowing the age prior to placement). However, I used the OUSD lottery and appeal process to get the public school I wanted. It is tricky and a bit unnerving, but I encourage you to ask for the school you want and keep appealing. Every year at our school there are kids who transfer in mid-year. It is possible. I will make an assumption based on your signature ''Hopeful Concerned Dads'' that you are a two dad family. Our school, Kaiser Elementary, is a very welcoming school across all levels of diversity and inclusion; one parent, two same-sex parents, adoptive families, mixed race families, grandparents raising kids, family income levels, etc. Families come to Kaiser from all across Oakland. We are a small community minded school with great parent involvement. I encourage you to tour the school and speak to the principal, who is great! If you want, you can contact me off line to discuss more. Valerie

Really, you're going to have to play it by ear a little bit. The specifics of the situation will end up determining things -- for example, maybe they're already in a local school and if there's no security issue (eg. parents deported as happens way too often these days), you may want to keep them in their existing school, at least for the remainder of the school year.

If they're pre-school age, you can see about getting them in at Headstart -- you may have to check around (I don't have the impression that there's a lot of coordination between programs) to see about vacancies or waiting lists (foster kids are usually at the head of the line, due to a points system that they score well on). Assuming the federal sequestration isn't still decimating them when you need them.

If they're school age and you have to move them, you're likely to have to engage with OUSD. I have found that working the system (telling them a compelling story and additional facts like that you're going to move to this neighborhood, meeting the principal, talking to multiple people on different days, etc) can help. Here's the thing -- in the middle of the school year, you may find an unexpected opening at a school you like. There are some good schools out there, or in neighborhoods that you're thinking of moving to.

I never got much help from our social workers, so keep looking for resources on your own. Good luck!!

Odds in the Oakland Options Process

Jan 2013

Does anyone have any success stories about the Oakland Options process? All I hear are stressful doomsday ''good luck getting in THERE'' when I tell people our top school is Crocker Highlands. We do live in a Program Improvement neighborhood, but I know it's a long shot. Any thoughts or advice in the process? I know the basics....appeal and be persistent. But I'm looking for some real life stories. Thank you! Stressed about Kindergarten Process

Yes your odds are good! I know lots of people who are in program improvementschool zones and opted into better school. I even know people from non-PI zones who got their top choice. (Someone in thornhill zone who got into Montclair!). The key I hear is to go thru the first round and then if you don't get your choice do an appeal. Write a persuasive letter to placement office that explains why your choice school would be better for your child. And if you are willing to wait often spots open up the first week of school. be persistent. . Good luck! Anon

Yes and no. Yes, we absolutely know people who've gotten into high-performing OUSD schools, even from non-PI neighborhoods--but most of them got in either during the appeals process or late in the summer. Most of those schools are at or over capacity, so neighborhood kids and siblings are on the list before you are, even with PI status. However, I know several people (PI and non-PI) who've optioned into the schools just below the radar through the standard options process--so I would certainly consider those, too. The issue with Crocker specifically is that it is currently very oversubscribed as a result of a boundary change last year. They are in the process of correcting this, but the new boundaries aren't approved yet. Even with the new boundaries, the catchment area is growing over the pre-2011 area, so there won't be much room this year or in the coming years for non-neighborhood, non-sibling students. When you visit schools, you can ask for information about how many K students in this year's class are neighborhood or sibling; that can help you figure out which schools you are most likely to get into through options or appeals. If you're willing to wait through the summer (or even into the first weeks of the school year) you can sometimes get a spot if there are no-shows, too. Good luck! Another Oakland mama

Are we guaranteed one of our 6 choices?

Sept 2012

Our son will be entering Kindergarten Fall of 2013. I've read through the information on the OUSD website and have one remaining question. We are supposed to choose six schools. Are we guaranteed placement in one of those six schools? If not, then what happens? I welcome any insight into the Options process, even that not addressing my specific question. Also, our neighborhood school is an API improvement school and also wouldn't be one of my top six choices. Lisa

Unfortunately, no, you aren't guaranteed that you will be assigned to any of your top six choices. However, since your neighborhood school is program improvement, you have a much better chance than others. If you aren't assigned a school that you want, you can go through the appeals process. Also, OUSD usually holds a session to explain the options process, so keep checking back on the website to find out the date. We went through the options process this past year, and my child got into our first choice school. There is hope!

How does the lottery work for middle school & high school?

Sept 2012

Hi BPN, I'm afraid I might sound very unaware, but I can't seem to find any info on how the OUSD lottery works past elementary school. Once you're in an elementary school, are you prioritized for its ''feeder'' middle and high school? Or, do you have to do the lottery all over again? How hard is it to move into non-neighborhood middle and high schools? Confused about the lottery

No, if your elementary school is not your neighborhood school, you do not automatically get routed to your school's middle school (I'm sure that sounds a bit confusing). Middle and high schools are also assigned by neighborhood, but the truth is, they are not oversubscribed like some of the OUSD elementaries are, so your chances of going to a non-neighborhood middle or high school is good. I have NEVER heard of a child not getting their first choice middle or high school in OUSD (though that doesn't mean it can't happen). OUSD mom


Confused about how the Oakland school lottery works

April 2012

Hello: Am a new member of Berkeley Parents in anticipation of a move to the East Bay in July. I am sorry if this question seems obvious, but just can't seem to figure out an answer. Is the school district in Oakland lottery within a zone, or pure lottery? My oldest son will enter K in the fall, and we won't have an Oakland address until July. If we move to a neighborhood with good schools, are we guaranteed a spot in a school IN THE ZONE, but not necessarily the one closest to us? (Eg, if we moved to Rockridge, we could end up in Chabot or Hillcrest, but not necessarily the one closest to us?) Or is it that we'd be potentially given a spot anywhere in the district? (Eg, we move to Rockridge and end up in a school 30 minutes away). Again, apologies if this has been discussed before - I've scoured the boards and just haven't found the answer. Appreciate any help! Thanks, Amanda

Just to confuse you further--it's neither! Schools in Oakland are neighborhood-based, which means that for most schools, if you live in the zone, you go to the school. (One school per zone, generally.) The maps for each school are on the OUSD website. There are a few exceptions (like Hillcrest) where schools are oversubscribed, so then you may get redirected to a designated second school if there's no room. You only go into the lottery if you do not want to attend your neighborhood school. BUT a big exception to this is if you enter the enrollment process late, as it sounds like you will. School assignments for next fall are already made, so children entering late are assigned whatever spots are left. However, you will get preference on the waiting list for your neighborhood school if a spot opens up (which is sometimes not until after school starts--there are usually no-shows). The sooner you get your address and get your son on the list, the better. Good luck, and welcome to Oakland! Another Oakland parent

Call OUSD and ask them. People with children move all times of the year and face the same situation. Ellen

There are no ''zones'' in Oakland. You're either in your neighborhood school, or you're not. There are a lot of great elementary schools in Oakland, so even if you don't get a coveted spot at your neighborhood school, you might end up at some other excellent school. BUT, it's a little bit risky, the way you're doing it. Kids already have their school assignments for fall and even though there are many good schools, they are probably all filled up. I'm sure there are others on this list who can give you a list of good elementary schools that are likely to have a kindy spot available, but there are many schools where that is highly unlikely (Chabot, Peralta, Crocker, Thornhill, etc.). It would take some luck to get a spot at one of these schools in July, though it's not impossible. It might be worth calling individual schools to get a sense of the likelihood of getting in. I hope I haven't confused you more...but navigating OUSD can be tricky. Weary OUSD mom

How do I find which school for which neighborhood?

Jan 2012

We're starting to look at buying a house, which means we need to think about schools. Our son is only 10 months old, so he won't be going to school for a while, but I know we need to think ahead on this one. However, when I went to the OUSD website, I couldn't find anything that helped me match a neighborhood with a school. How do we figure that out? Confused

There are school boundary maps here: Also, there is an Options pamphlet you should be able to pick up at any Oakland elementary school. It has write ups of every school and it also has a boundary map I believe. liz

Check out OUSD School Finder at -- it's a little cumbersome to use but once you enter an address and get to the map PDFs, you can print off the ones in the neighborhoods you're interested in and just take them along while you're house hunting. (Note that the school boundaries near the five closing elementary schools--Lakeview, Lazear, Santa Fe, Maxwell Park, and Marshall--are changing, so you may need to wait for new maps if you're looking in those neighborhoods. They just approved the new boundaries last week.) Another Oaklander


Moving within Oakland after kindergarten

Jan 2012

Is it okay to move to a different neighborhood a few years after you've enrolled in an Oakland elementary school? My son will be attending kindergarten in 2013. We currently rent so we're planning on moving this summer to a rental in one of the better school districts.

However, we are hoping to buy a house in three to four years' time. If the house we purchase is not in the same school district, would we have to transfer our son out of third grade? For example, if we rent in Rockridge but later buy in Temescal, would he have to transfer from Crocker to Emerson? Or is it a case of once-you're-in, you're-in through fifth grade?

Also, I know siblings get first priority, but is that whether or not you're in the district? If we moved before my younger son entered kindergarten, would he still get priority for the school his older brother attends? Thanks so much! Adams Point Mama

Yes, OUSD policy allows children to stay at the same school even if the family moves. You also keep your sibling preference even if you're no longer in the school zone. So your plan sounds like a good one! Another Oakland parent

Once you're in a school you can stay there as long as you live anywhere in OUSD. For example, our friend rented in the Thornhill catchment to get into Thornhill kindergarten, then moved to a cheaper part of Oakland but her child stayed at Thornhill. anon

You should confirm this with the enrollment office in OUSD but my understanding is that you can stay at your school. I work in OUSD and as far as I know they only do address verification once. But call the school you hope to go to too to be sure.

Hi - So, not to worry. If I am understanding your question correctly, once you are in a school in OUSD, you don't have to transfer simply because you have moved. You CAN transfer - which is another story. Once you are enrolled in an OUSD school, you are in until 5th grade. Check with SAO if you are worried, but being a past OUSD employee and current educational consultant - that is my understanding. Best of luck,

Regarding Oakland schools, once you're in, you're in. You are free to move around Oakland but stay in whichever school you're enrolled in. Siblings, even non-neighborhood siblings, have priority over neighborhood kids. OUSD mom


How to get into Thornhill or Montclair Elementary?

June 2010

Our son will start kindergarten in Fall 2011. We're renters and can relocate anywhere. We're very interested in having him attend either of the Montclair elementary schools - Thornhill or Montclair. I assume we need to live in one of those school districts to have him attend? Are there any exceptions to that? Is renting okay? Do you have to live there for any specific length of time beforehand? Should I meet with someone at the schools first? What other practical advice could help us? Thank you so much! sarah

It's great that you are portable!

With ANY Oakland public school, you must have an address and related identification (car registration, driver's license, electric bill, etc) to prove your residence before the application date. Renting is fine. The date for a 2011 start is likely in mid December 2010.

I suggest you visit the schools you are interested in and talk with parents and teachers. This school year ends in 12 days-so act fast if you want to see action this year (or visit schools then move in the fall).

Please note- occasionally a school will have more neighborhood kids applying then they have space. I know that Hillcrest, for one, has this problem. So make sure wherever you move, your kid has a guarantee of getting in! You can get a sense of capacity by talking with principals, parents, and the person who runs placement for the district.

We toured schools and moved to the Montclair boundaries just before application. We also considered Thornhill, JM, and Piedmont. We're very happy at Montclair. Kim

Moving within Oakland - required to switch schools?

March 2010

Our daughter is currently enrolled in the 2nd grade at Thornhill Elementary and we are very happy with her teachers and progress so far. We have the opportunity to buy a great house that, while still in Oakland and not very far away, is in a different elementary school district. Must we change our daughter's elementary school? I would hate to move her away from her friends and comfortable school envirnoment but also don't want to pass up this opportunity to own a home. Would love to hear from people who may have been in a similar situation. Conundrum

If you are still in OUSD, you can stay at Thornhill. Double check with Kathy in the office, who knows everything. But I know people who've started out in the Thornhill ''catchment'', who moved out of it, but still attend, because they don't make you switch. People move apartments all the time, can't be switching all the time. anon

No, you don't have to change schools. Once you're in, you're in, the school district doesn't require you to change schools because you moved, you just have the *option* to do so, if you want to. Anon

Hi There, You do not have to move your child to another elementary school. As long as you're still living in Oakland, once she's in, she's in. Last Spring, I registered my daughter in K at our then-neighborhood school, we moved during the summer to another school neighborhood, she began the year at the school where she registered. I updated the school w/our new address to ensure we'd receive mailings, records would be accurate, etc. no need to move though. Your next school move will be middle school- which will be based on your current Oakland neighborhood, not her current school. Moved homes not schools in Oakland

March 2006

Our son is starting Kindergarden in the fall. Our lease will be up after he starts, and we'd like to consider buying a house. What happens if we move, within Oakland? Must our child switch schools? At the beginning of the next school year, would we face the interdistrict transfer lottery? Once a child is in a school, can he stay there until he graduates (so long as he lives in Oakland)? We haven't called the OUSD office because we have been told more than once not to trust information from the OUSD office. We like our current district school and wouldn't want him to be forced to move. What are the rules? We're not trying to game the system, but may likely buy in a less-desirable area. anon

We moved within Oakland when my daughter was in 1st grade and had no problem keeping her in the school where she'd gone for kindergarten. I think we discussed it with the principal before we enrolled her in the school to begin with, since we were renting at the time and didn't know how long we'd be staying, and I think that the principal told us that it wouldn't be a problem keeping her there if we moved as long as we stayed in Oakland. If I were you I would check with the principal of the school where your child is going to kindergarten.

I don't think you'll need to change schools. But, with the new ''Options'' plan (only for kids entering K & 5th) I might be wrong. You won't get incorrect information if you call OUSD and talk to Noah Bookman. (Or, sometimes it's even better to email him - his address is on the OUSD website.) Alison al forums. anonymous

Go to this website to find out your school. It is put out by the OUSD. To find out what to do and what the process is, go to the OUSD site and click on PARENTS tab. There will be some tabs at the top, right under where it says PARENTS in blue. One says enrollment/assignment info and click on it. If gives you all your info. You will never get an info by calling them. No one there ever knows anything. The website is pretty good though. Karen

The Oakland school district has a map tool at that should help -- you can check any address in the City of Oakland to see its Elementary, Middle, or High School boundary, among other things. If you are in the boundary for the school you're applying to, you do not have to go through the lottery system UNLESS there are more kindergarten kids within the boundaries than there are slots for. This hasn't happened at Montclair or Thornhill yet, but it has happened at other Oakland elementary schools. Montclair Mom

Getting into Oakland High Schools

August 2008

We're going to be buying in Oakland, and want to understand the impact of various neighborhoods for education options down the road. Many things (including OUSD rules) could, of course, change in the next decade, but we'd like to understand where things are at right now. We will buy in the flats and will decide based on many factors - not just the schools. We are currently in Oakland Tech's area, which seems fine. How about Oakland High School? It appears that the high schools tend to have small-school academies -- how hard is it to get in, if you meet the academics, on a transfer? thanks for any insight. anon

I work at Envision Academy, a college prep charter high school in Downtown Oakland. I wanted to make a pitch for the many charters schools throughout Oakland that are providing students with a quality education. As you may know, charter schools are public schools, except that they handle their own finances and create their own curriculum. They are not exempt from state mandated test like the CAHSEE, etc. Lastly, the process of enrolling in these schools is not dependent on where you live. Schools like Envision Academy have great leadership and are doing great things. You can find out information on EA and other charters that doing good work at the California Charter School Association. anon

OUSD Enrollment Policy Changes/Megaboundary

June 2008

Dear Parents- I hope you can help. I want to get feedback on the proposed changes to OUSD enrollment policy for elementary schools. We're moving from Oakland to Boston this summer and hope to buy a house by fall. We used to live in Oakland & my husband worked for OUSD so we know its pitfalls. My question is whether or not the proposed changes (sibs first, megaboundaries for enrollment because of overcrowding) will actually effect the neighborhoods/schools. Will people move out if boundaries are expanded? Will home values dip? Will the schools change that much as a result? I know it's an emotional & political issue, but we're devestated to have settled on area that was challenging to begin w/in terms of enrollment (REdwood Heights) only to learn the policy might change drastically w/the new boundaries. Would it be a mistake to buy in such a neighborhood if the policy changed? Any answers welcome. E

There is a good discussion of these changes here:

The Education Report is a blog where reporter Katy Murphy discusses Oakland schools in great detail. There are many active participants on the blog and it's a decent source of information and opinion on the current issues. crocker parent

OUSD districting and cut-off date changes?

June 2008

I understand that OUSD in the process of making changes to the cut-off date for kindergarteners from December 1 to September 1. I have also heard that they will be adding a lottery system whereby people in neighborhood schools are not guaranteed their neighborhood school and it is a lottery system instead much like San Francisco Unified. A couple questions, one being when are these changes going to take place, and also, do I have the facts right? Could someone clarify? We are thinking of moving to a new Oakland neighborhood for the schools and I would hate to move and then find out that we can't even go to our neighborhood school. anon

Most of the schools with high API scores (over 900) in OUSD are full or are over capacity. I recently called OUSD about the waitlist policy and the waitlist supposedly ends 2 weeks after school begins this year. School in Oakland is slated to begin on August 25th. Call OUSD directly to verify policies and dates as they may change, 879-8200. You can also go directly to each school's website to find out further information about any re- districting that may affect you.

I heard the same rumor about OUSD cut off dates changing. I asked OUSD and they referred me around until I got this reply on May 1st. Hope this helps. ---

In the last few years or more, there has been a measure in the legislature to change the kindergarten age 5 date requirement (usually a phase in) from Dec. 1 to Sept. 1. However, there has generally been a conflict with folks that like it the way it is, the fact that compulsory education begins at age 6-18, and what to do about the kids that are not placed because of change-which generally means some sort of preschool placement which is always a cost issue. To answer your question directly, there is a bill- AB 683 authored by Sharon Runner that failed to get out of the Assembly Education Committee. See link below. Since this bill failed passage, there is no real threat of anything changing anytime soon.

Lupita Cortez Alcala Director, Legislative Affairs Office of Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction California Department of Education

future OUSD mom

We live in Montclair - which school?

May 2008

We live in the Montclair District of Oakland and have a son who will attend elementary school in 2010. I need to figure out which elementary school our son is eligible to attend in Montclair (I assume it's based on our street address) and whether or not there is a lottery system or if we are guaranteed a spot by virtue of being Montclair residents. I would appreciate some guidance and advice. I tried to research the OUSD website but it wasn't very helpful. Chris

It is based on street address. Call the schools nearest to you, or call a real estate office. OUSD is in the process of changing the ways kids are assigned. Even now, you aren't guaranteed a spot in your neighborhood school, some have too many entering K students. Once you find out what school you are in, get in touch with the school parent association to find out more and how to get involved. OUSD has been holding information

OUSD: do neighborhood siblings have priority?

Nov 2007

A couple years ago I was told by an official at OUSD that neighborhood children who had a sibling currently enrolled at school would be admitted first, so we thought we'd be fine when it came time to enroll our second child. Now I've been hearing rumors that ''neighborhood siblings'' will be in the same pool as all other applicants from the neighborhood and may not be assigned to the same school at their older sibling. Has anyone else heard this or had this happen? Are you aware of any other school districts that don't prioritize siblings who live within the school boundaries?
Just want my kids to attend the same school!

No! I went to an OUSD meeting two weeks ago with the head of the schools and issues realted to the options program. (I can't remember his name.) He was very clear that neighborhood siblings do NOT get priority over regular neighborhood kids. The computer program that runs all kids who apply to each school picks neighborhood kids first, then, if spaces are available, chooses siblings, then moves to other groups of kids. You older one's little brother or sister has the same chance of getting into that school as any other neighborhood kid does. This OUSD man expressed his frustration that the same family could be sending different kids to different schools, but that is just the way it is. I have a child entering kindergarten in Redwood Heights in 2008. The numbers show that Redwood Heights will not be a problem this year. Next year, however, is going to be a problem. I have another little one who will be in school in 2010. I plan on pressuring OUSD to change their policy on siblings for 2010. I would imagine, if they change it at all, it might take that long!--but one never knows. Good luck! anon

How does Oakland public school assignment work?

April 2007

Hi, I thought that one's child was eligible to go to a particular Oakland public school based on home address, but I see BPN members talk about Oakland public school assignments, options, and being turned down on application forms. Can someone explain how the system works? Thanks. Rose

Here is how Oakland works. Parents fill out the options form listing up to 6 schools in order of preference. If you like your neighborhood school, you would probably put that as the first one on the list. Oakland accepts those forms until close to the end of January and then proceeds to issue school assignments. The assignment priority is as follows:

1. Children who currently reside in the neigborhood boundary of the school and who have siblings currently attending the school are admitted first.

2. If space remains after the children in (1) are admitted, other children who currently reside in the neighborhood are admitted next.

3. If there is not enough space for the children in (2), there is a lottery system to pick the names of the kids in category (2) who will receive the remaining spaces. The rest of the children under (2) are assigned to schools based on how they filled out the options form. If the parents of those children did not select another school option, the child is assigned to a nearby school in Oakland Unified.

4. If there is still space after the neighborhood children are assigned, the school will accept next siblings of students currently at the school but who do not live in the neighborhood.

5. After that, children who do not have a sibling at the school and who do not live in the neighborhood would be accepted. Children whose neighborhood school is a program improvement school would then have priority over other children whose neighborhood school is not a program improvement school. If you fill out the options form, your child is not assigned to your first choice, and you reside in the neighborhood, you can be placed on a waiting list in case someone who was admitted moves or chooses another school option. Admissions occur right up until school starts or even later.

If this year is any indication, there are several schools in Oakland that will likely have too many children seeking to enroll in kindergarten based on the spaces available for 2008/2009. This year that happened, but because the district could have done better at communicating with parents that they are not guaranteed their neighborhood school, the District has made accommodations this year for folks that were confused and that appealed their child's assignment.

It would be prudent for 2008/2009 for people to list other Oakland public schools that would be acceptable in case your neighborhood has a large entering K class and to consider applying to private schools also.

The good news is that even when other public school assignments are needed, the kids are generally placed together at a very nearby school (usually closer than the nearby private schools) so there remains the neighborhood feel and the ability to have playdates with kids from your class in the neighborhood and there is also diversity and broader experiences available. So the best advice is to fill out the form, visit all the schools that are nearby your home and consider all of your options! anon


Current OUSD Open Enrollment Policy?

February 2007

We are hoping to send our son to public elementary school next year. Does anyone have any current information on how open enrollment works? Is it hard to get into your school of choice? How soon do you have to apply? We are debating whether to move to another area with a better elementary school or to stay put and hope he gets into one of the schools we prefer. We were thinking of listing about 6-8 schools. Is there a good chance we will get one of them? Our local elementary is in the low 600s for API performance, and we are not very comfortable sending him there, but we want to send him to public school. Thanks.

As far as I know open enrollment applications had to be in at the end of January, with assignments being mailed in mid-march. If you do not want to attend your neighborhood school the best thing to do is call the placement specialist at OUSD. If you are okay with your local school go talk to the administator as they always hold spaces for late registration/late moves to the neighborhood. Just an aside - don't judge your school by the numbers. Go for a tour, meet the parents, etc... we have two children in the public schools in Oakland and have been very impressed and happy. Maggie

Open Enrollment ended in January. I'd contact the district to see what the next step for you would be. -Good luck.

Considering a move from SF - is Oakland school assignment more certain?

Jan 2007

We are thinking about moving from SF to Oakland in the next few years for the schools but are not sure about how the neighborhood school system works. If we move into a home that would be in the district for, e.g. Crocker Highlands, before the application deadline, are we guaranteed a spot as neighborhood residents? It wasn't clear from the OUSD website whether living in the neighborhood is more than just a priority ranking. Also, is it difficult for families in the ''more desirable'' school neighborhoods, like those funneling to Crocker, Joaquin Miller, Chabot, etc., to get their kids into their local school? Do neighbors living in the area by the application deadline ever (or routinely) lose places to applicants from other areas? One of the reasons we're thinking of moving from SF is to get away from the uncertainty of the SFUSD's assignment system and we'd hate to move into Oakland only to face the same. Thanks for any insight -- and any recommendations on elementary schools!
East Bay bound?

Yes, I know, that same OUSD ''explanation'' made me nervous too. But it seems that, at least for now, your kid gets priority in your neighborhood school, if you get your application in by the proper deadline. Of course, the hill schools tend to be full, so this doesn't guarantee you a spot. Please think at least somewhat carefully before you choose Oakland for the schools. Be sure the system there is one in which your child will do well. All of the schools are required to use the Open Court reading curriculum pretty religiously. Even in my school (one of the ''better'' ones), this results in what I consider an inordinate number of worksheets, homework, and assessments. My son, who is plenty smart but has writing difficulties, hates kindergarten halfway through (although he loved preschool, and loves his current teacher) -- he hates the work and it is too hard and too boring, at the same time! A kid who's better at both sitting still, and writing, would probably do a bit better. Karen

Information from my experience 2006-2007: You are not automatically enrolled in your neighborhood school: You need to choose it as one (your first one, I would guess, for the popular schools) of your choices in the school option period, although you have priority. If you don't already live in the district, I think they keep some spaces open for move-ins. YOu should call Noah Bookman in the OUSD assignment office, and he can give you all the details. It is a bit of a pain but not an impossible system. OUSD mom

Only a few Oakland schools get full with neighborhood kids. As of three years ago, these were only Hillcrest & Manzanita (elementary schools) and none of the middle or high schools. In all other schools, if you registered before the late-January deadline you are pretty much guaranteed a spot, although it does not say ''guaranteed'' on any paper since any school is limited to its capacity (but some schools do use the word ''guaranteed'' in the public forum). If you are in the right neighborhood and do paperwork on time, you have nothing to worry about.

In good schools there are good teachers. They teach great under Open Court or any other system, with lots of support from parents, and lots of school support (including individualized) for high-performing children, of which in good schools there are very many. maria

I have two quick comments on your question. First, someone else suggested you call Noah Bookman at OUSD. Unfortunately, he is no longer with OUSD. The current head of the school assignments office is Elizabeth Hensley.

Second -- if you're going to move to Oakland for the schools, you might want to read some BPN reviews on the middle and high schools here. Your child will not be in elementary school forever. Obviously, opinions on the grade 6-12 options here vary, but unless you're SURE you want to move again in 6 years, I think you ought to at least think about the schools beyond elementary. You may or may not find them acceptable, but I think it's worth at least thinking about. Good luck! Diane

Regarding elementary schools in Oakland, I wanted to mention that IF your address assigns you to a NON-program-improvement (PI) school, it is very difficult to transfer to an ''already excellent'' elementary school that is not in your Oakland neighborhood. If, on the other hand, you are assigned to a PI school -- and there are more than 20 elementary schools in Oakland that this applies to -- it is very possible to transfer to an ''already excellent'' school. Without getting into the merits of this direct effect of the No Child Left Behind legislation, as applied in the OUSD, it does mean that non-PI kids have very few schools available to them, outside their neighborhood school. (Of course, it also means that the PI schools lose a lot of neighborhood kids.)

One thing to do if you find yourself in this situation is to go through the recent OUSD ''Options'' process -- results of this will be out in March -- and if you receive none of the choices that you requested, appeal and get your child on a waiting list at one of your school choices. Then, you have to wait it out, sometimes until August, or even the first week of school. People do this and it is risky but possible. (Note that for PI kids who don't get their choice of school, appealing the Options outcome is an excellent strategy -- the PI kids are put on a waitlist that is entirely separate from the non-PI kids' waitlist. In other words, the PI waitlist must be exhausted before any non-PI kids are taken.)

The other thing to do is to think about what would make you comfortable sending your child to your neighborhood school, even if it's not a ''10'', or even a ''7''. What if there were an active PTA, and several other neighborhood families that were open to sending their kids to the school? Or what if you don't feel comfortable with your immediate neighborhood school, but you've heard that there are some good things happening at another school close by -- would you consider sending your child there for kindergarten, knowing that you could try for a transfer again at 1st or 2nd grade if things didn't work out? If in March, PI or non-PI, you find yourself with a difficult decision to make, please consider Piedmont Avenue Elementary School. There is a new-ish, very active PTA doing some good fundraising; there are neighborhood families sending their kids to the school as well as lots of Oakland families who've transferred into the school because of some of the good things going on there; and the school's physical facility is excellent, unlike some OUSD schools -- no portables, well heated and maintained building, safe neighborhood, and lots of garden and playground improvement in the works. If you'd like to hear more about the school, or would like to follow its progress, please sign up for our Yahoo group -- send an e-mail to walktoschoolPANSA-subscribe [at] Thanks for your interest, Philippa

We live in the Chabot district - worried we may not get in

May 2006

We live in the Chabot School District. But from reading various posts, I'm beginning to get concerned that my daughter may not get in, regardless. Is it possible that she won't get in even if we live in the district?? Anon

Our daughter is currently a K student at Chabot; we live in the district. It is a fabulous school, and thus very popular for transfers. As long as you follow the new district guidelines for registering--most importantly, doing it early--you should be fine. Next year, from what I am told, there were 70 in-district kids who enrolled. That left only 10 spaces for transfers. Good luck! Elizabeth

Yes-- it is a possibility that you won't get into your neighborhood school. It happened to us this year, even though we registered when we were supposed to, along with everyone else. We've lived in our home for over 10 years, not that this has anything to do with the process. However, I do not think people are getting bumped from Chabot. Usually your child gets bumped to something somewhat close by. We weren't thrilled with what we were bumped to, although there is nothing seriously wrong with the alternative that was offered to us. We've decided to go elsewhere, after this experience with OUSD. ---anon

Is anyone else getting the feeling that Oakland Unified is quietly implementing a ''choice'' system similar to Berkeley and San Francisco? Although officially we have a ''neighborhood school policy'' the district has taken over the job of enrolling students, which used to happen at the school sites. I would be interested to hear other experiences.

I don't live in the Chabot district, but I live in an Oakland neighborhood with a very good elementary school. I have the same concerns that you do. The number of people (living within the neighborhood boundaries) applying to our local elementary school seems to have doubled in just a handful of years. Everywhere I turn in the neighborhood, new families are moving in and most of them want to send their children to the local school. My own theory is that private schools are less affordable with the rise in housing prices and mortgages. Unfortunately neighborhood schools aren't required to take neighborhood kids, although in the recent past this usually hasn't been a problem. With the current ''baby boomlet'' or trend to support good neighborhood schools, some neighborhood kids will probably not be offered spots at their local school. (It also doesn't help that there are those who cheat & lie to obtain spaces, depriving others of spots - you may have followed the recent thread about this issue). I would like to know what Oakland will be doing to accommodate neighborhood kids in the future
Concerned mom

The OUSD ''options'' assignment process has been confusing and frustrating for me too, but I have found the Student Assignment Office to be pretty responsive to my questions. If you have questions or concerns about the process, the numbers & statistics, waiting lists etc. call the assignment office and talk to Noah Bookman or send him an email ((510) 879-8111; enroll[at] There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions floating around -- if you want to get to the bottom of it, contact the District

Do I have any legal right to enroll in the school that is in my neighborhood?

April 2005

I recently decided to enroll my daughter in public kindergarten instead of continuing with her private school. When I called the school to inquire about registering, I was told that the school is full and that I should call Oakland Unified to get assigned to a school with space available. This is our neighborhood school, btw, not one we were hoping to transfer into. Has anyone else had this happen? What stategies did you use to get your child enrolled? Do I have any legal right to enroll in the school that is in my neighborhood? Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Just because you live in your OUSD public school neighborhood, you are still required to go through the standard registration process in order to enroll your kindergartner in your local school. This is true for everyone in the neighborhood, even those with siblings already attending the school. Good public schools in Oakland are in high demand, so the spaces that are not filled by neighborhood kids are quickly filled with transfer students. Meeting the registration deadline is the only way to guarantee your place in your neighborhood school, which must meet enrollment levels in order to receive full funding and continue the level of educational excellence. Residing in the district won't guarantee your place if you haven't gone through the process. People who move into the neighborhood during the school year face these issues all the time.

The first thing you should do is schedule a meeting with the principal to learn about the waiting list process. OUSD schools don't have an actual enrollment count until around the third week of the school year, so there usually are unanticipated openings. Sometimes people move away during the summer and don't notify the school; sometimes parents get accepted to private schools... there are a myriad of reasons that create last-minute openings.

Rather than pursuing any type of legal action, which may or may not get you the desired result (and likely leave a foul taste), you would be better off to work with the principal and show your willingness to be involved with the school and an active and positive member of the school community. Principals have more pull than one might think. I know of at least one case in our high-demand local school where the principal went out of the way to enroll a transfer kindergarten student simply because his parents were so enthusiastic about being part of the community and it was clear that their unabashed involvement (which was not, I might add, financial) would make a great addition to the school. As it turned out, there was an opening to accomodate him anyway, but the principal added him without knowing that because of the perserverance and enthusiasm of the parents. Also, be willing to have some flexibility to enroll in another Oakland public school in hopes that something will come up at your neighborhood school. Chances are better than one would think that even at the highest-demand public schools, there will be an opening at some point (even a few days before the school year). Yes, it can be frustrating and stressful for you and your child. However, I would be willing to bet good money that if you stay on top of things, are patient and work in partnership with the principal and can be flexible right up till the end, that you will be able to enroll your child at your neighborhood public school. Patience, pathos and perserverance will pay off. Knows whereof I speak

We have been looking into this issue of legal rights to enroll in your neighborhood school and as it turns out you do not have any legal rights to your neighborhood school. We have this issue in Pacifca, which is an all open enrollment system. Also look to the SF School district for other examples. The school districts are required to treat everyone equally and to of course provide a spot at A school, but not necisarily the school you want. If your child has some disability and it just so happens your neighborhood school is the only school in the district that can accomadate your child then you would have a legal basis to demand enrollment in that school. But other than that there is no legal basis to demand access to your local school. Joe G

I put my kids through my neighborhood elementary school, which is one of the more popular ones in Oakland. To my knowledge, neighborhood children are given priority to register through a certain date, which I believe is sometime in March. At that point the school opens the unreserved spaces to the out-of- neighborhood children on the wait list. If you decide, after the deadline, to put your child in the school, they put you on the wait list. You might go to the top, but they won't displace anyone already given a space, which certainly seems fair to me.

I know this is after the fact in your case, but,a word of caution to others: If you think there's even a slim chance you'll use your neighborhood school, register your child early. You can always call the school and tell them you won't be attending. The logistics of assembling classes is mind boggling. The schools have no choice but to set limits for the good of all children. OUSD parent

My neighborhood school is full - don't I have priority over transfer students?

Feb 2005

Our child attends a private Kindergarten. We recently moved into the district of a desirable elementary school. When I went to register my child for Fall, 2005 in first grade, I was told that there would only be space if one of the current Kindergarteners didn't attend first grade at the school. I've learned that as many as one-quarter of these Kindergarteners are inter- or intra-district transfers. As we live in the neighborhood, doesn't our child have the right to attend the school, even if it means displacing a current transfer student? Trying to get an official statement out of the superintendent's office is challenging. Is there a written policy? Any advice would be welcome! Thanks, confused

The OUSD is confusing and impenetrable. As a result of this, each school has it's own creative procedures. I recommend going to the principal or secretary of your local school and letting them know you are very interested in the school. (Don't be put off by busy or monosyllabic desk people, get all your questions asked.) They'll tell you that the window period for open enrollment is already over, which is true. BUT, each school saves a number of slots for last minute neighborhood enrollers. They have to let you in! I think you're entitled to sign up right at the school. Don't be intimidated by the desirable school thing, many families leave after kindergarten, desirable or not. You may have to also go downtown and enroll with the people there. The secretary at your school can tell you where that actual downtown person can be found, it seems to change every year. Volunteer at your school before you are enrolled, ask if there are any garden or pta tasks you can help with, attend a pta meeting, make yourself known & get a feel for the school at the same time. Good luck! You're welcome to contact me if you wish. Happy OUSD parent, Jenny