Enrolling in Oakland Public Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • I'm looking to move to Oakland this coming summer and need to enroll my 7-year old in one of the public elementary schools -- he'll be starting 2nd grade in fall 2019.  We're doing this after the enrollment deadline for the standard registration process, and so I'm trying to get a sense of whether there's any chance that he'd be able to get into his neighborhood elementary school.  I know that the district basically creates a waitlist and that they take people off the waitlist as space becomes available, but I'm wondering how *likely* it is that we'd successfully get our son into our neighborhood school. Is there anyone who has had experience with doing this?  If it helps at all, we're likely looking to get him into either the Glenview or the Montclair elementary schools (or maybe Joaquin Miller or Thornhill or somewhere else in Montclair).  Has anyone else here successfully moved into district in the summer and gotten their kid into one of these schools?  


    Yes, OUSD does accommodate this and it's very likely he'll get in. Late applications are put last in line for your priority group, so if it's a neighborhood school that has already offered spots to all the new neighborhood kids in the zone (which all on your list likely have for second grade) then he goes to the #1 spot (last of the neighbors, but still ahead of any non-neighbors). There is always summer movement and it's very likely that at least one spot will open up. This is somewhat more likely at Montclair or Glenview because they're bigger schools, but I think you'd be pretty safe at all of the schools you mentioned. Just get your address established as soon as possible--the sooner you're on the list, the better.

  • Midyear Transfer into OUSD

    (2 replies)

    Hello all,

    I wanted to ask if anybody here might have gone through a midyear school transfer. We've been trying to keep our daughter in the Montessori system through kindergarten and then switch to the OUSD at 1st grade. Unfortunately, after some unexpected unemployment issues, we are facing the need to move her to a public school here in October or November. Is it likely we would get assigned to our local school? Are we going to struggle just trying to get her into something less desirable (non-judgmental, but we all just want the best for our kids, right)? Are there any other admission issues specific to the midyear change that I should know about? I went to ask questions at the main OUSD admissions office, but they couldn't tell me anything until I have a withdrawal slip from her current school in hand. 

    Thank you very much for any light you might be able to shed on the process here.

    You should know that Oakland has a public Montessori:  Urban Montessori Charter School.  It's not a private Montessori-- there are kids of all backgrounds, some new to Montessori-- so be aware it isn't a small, coddled environment and there are challenges like any public school in Oakland. But we're doing Montessori in the public sector! Check us out.


    It all depends on what your neighborhood school is. Some schools will absolutely not have space for a kindergartner at this time of year, while others certainly will. I personally don't think kids need "the best" and can thrive in schools that are merely good enough.  If you want only "the best" in Oakland, you can't get it midyear for kindergarten.  But if you remain open-minded you might just be very pleasantly surprised at what Oakland has to offer.

    OUSD momx3

  • hello all,

    I am a new parent and quite confused about when to visit schools and register etc. my son is 15 months old and I already have some friends telling me that I should have already made my school choice and gotten on  a waiting list! when I inquired at montclair elementary they told me it was way too early and I would have to wait till my toddler was at least 4 years old . can someone provide some information and guidance for me ?



    Public school?  You're way too early. Private?  It's not time to actually apply, but may be time to make inquiries / get on "interested" wait lists, as appropriate. You'll need to explore each school individually if you're considering private. A call or visit to your school district will help with public, but again, not yet!  Preschools are a whole different ball of wax (your friends are absolutely correct that you need to be getting on preschool waiting lists now), but you mention visiting an elementary school, so there seems to be some confusion there. My answers above are for elementary school (again, because you mention visiting one). Good luck. 

    Maybe your friends were talking pre-k or private schools? 

    OUSD has a lottery system with preference given to those zoned in the neighborhood school,. (ie. Live in the Peralta neighborhood zone, priority given as a neighbor residing in that zone). That said, some schools don't have space for all the neighbors. 

    A child enters as either TK or Kindergarten depending on their birthday.

    You apply to the lottery options the Dec/Jan before your kiddo turns 5 (a Dec TK kid may be slightly different).

    Tours typically start the month before (Nov). It's preferred to attend without children, and many/most schools require reservations. 

    You get to list 6 lottery picks, and hold your breath for 3 months until march, and hopefully don't have to appeal. 

    In my experience, there are school tours that you can attend in November or December before the school year in which your child would start kindergarten. Then you register in January. I would look at the school's website and see if you can get on their mailing list. I would have missed enrollment if my neighbor hadn't told me the date. You can also stalk the school's website the year before kindergarten.

    I think that your friends are probably referring to preschool programs, particularly if you want your child to attend a fancy private school. Some of those are fed by specific preschools with waiting lists.

    Wow, not sure what schools are to which your friends are referring unless they are private schools? Within OUSD, there is one option (well, technically two, but I don't know many folks who do nothing and just enroll the kid into any available space come August). Most folks apply through the Options process, which opens in early December and closes mid-January for the next school year, whereby you can select up to six elementary schools (which should include your neighborhood school if that's one of the schools you'd consider). You'll be notified of what school your kid is enrolled in by mid-March (there's a whole process to appeal, etc.) The youngest your kid can be to enroll (through Options or not) is four years-old with a birthday between 9/2 and 12/2 the year they'd be attending school for transitional kindergarten, or a four-year old with a birth date before 9/2 for kindergarten. Charter schools have a separate application process and are due mid-February, with the same age restrictions. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice  

When should I register my 3 year old for OUSD?

Aug 2014

I am a first time mom and finding a K-12 school for my daughter is very new to me. My daughter will be 4 years old on December 3rd. Will she miss the cut off to enter Kindergarten? If so, does that mean she will be a year behind due to her birth month?

I am currently in the process of searching elementary schools in Oakland. I've visited the greatschools.com website and other websites and am not sure how reliable the resource is. Any recommendations on which schools are the best? Can someone also give me an insight on how soon I should pre-register her, so that she is guarantee to get into the schools? Do I get to choose any top schools to place her or is it by zip code? Any advice on what steps I should take from registering and visiting schools, etc. would greatly help.

I will also need to find a after school care because my husband and I work until 5/6pm. Does anyone know how that works and how much it typically costs? Does every school have a after school care and is it on campus or off campus?

Thank you in advance for your help. Amanda [*Moderator: many of your questions can be easily answered by checking the school district's website: http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/ ]

Hopefully you've had a chance to check out the OUSD website as the moderator suggested, but yes, your daughter will miss the kindergarten cutoff--not only for this year, but for next year as well. She must be five years old by September 1st the year that she begins, which means she will start K in the fall of 2016 (and you will register her in January 2016). So you have lots of time! However, you may want to talk to OUSD about the potential to enroll her in 2015 in transitional kindergarten (a pre-kindergarten program for kids with fall birthdays) if you'd like to start her sooner. She just misses the cutoff for this as well (five by December 2nd), but only by a day, so it's worth asking if they will let her enroll if there is space--many districts are flexible on this. School assignments are based on your address, so you can look up your address here to find out which school you're assigned to: http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/

Since you have a lot of time, you can consider moving if you don't like the neighborhood school where you live. You can also go into what's called the Options process to try to get assigned to a different school, but there are no guarantees there. After-school programs vary by school, so when you begin to visit schools in the fall of 2015 prior to registration, you can ask each school what programs are offered there, and factor that into your decision. If you are considering moving to a different school zone, it's fine to go visit the schools this fall to get a sense of what's out there. Good luck! Another Oakland parent


Moving to Upper Rockridge - missed the lottery

Aug 2014

We are moving to the Bay Area next month (August 2014) (either Upper Rockridge or Laurel Heights in the City, driven largely by the answer to this question) and need to find a school for our 5 year old son (turned 5 in May). We've obviously missed application and lottery deadlines, so would appreciate any advice regarding options in those two areas. Thank you!

You don't mention whether you are looking at private or public schools, but at least in Upper Rockridge, you're right that the chances of getting into the neighborhood public schools this late in the game are slim--although there is always a possibility, as once you are ''in zone'' you go to the top of the wait list (but that might mean behind other families who have moved into the neighborhood recently, too). Hopefully someone from SF will chime in, but my understanding is that the school assignment there is far more complex and unpredictable, so likely little chance of getting your top choice school there either. In your shoes, I would likely opt to do private school for kindergarten, assuming you can swing the cost of that--then next year, you go into the school assignment process on time at the top of the list for first grade spots. It's late for private school applications too, but there are definitely schools with spots, and also the less conventional (but I think overlooked) option of doing a Bridge K program for kindergarten and then entering first grade. With a child who turned five in May, you'd be right in the window for that--so I'd choose a side of the Bay and then begin calling (or maybe begin calling first?) Some Bridge K options in Oakland/Berkeley include Heart's Leap, Step One, and the Berkeley School, among others--I think I've seen all advertise recently that they still have spots for the fall. A number of preschools, especially Montessoris, are also approved to have kids through kindergarten. I don't know much about Aurora, but they are in Upper Rockridge and advertising open spots in this week's newsletter--so if you want to head to Upper Rockridge anyway that could be a great bet. They're basically across the street from Hillcrest Elementary, which is the neighborhood public school, so if your plan is to eventually transfer there, it could make a lot of sense. And with OUSD, spots do always open up unexpectedly in August and even into September, so you might get lucky, too. Good luck! Another Oakland parent


Missed deadline for OUSD K for this fall

Feb 2014

I missed the application deadline for OUSD Kindergarten for this fall (don't ask). With a late application, I am wondering if we have ANY chance of still going to our neighborhood school (Oakland hills)...anyone have any experience with this? Feeling absolutely sick about this

Hopefully you submitted your application as soon as you realized you missed the deadline, but if not--do it immediately! Take it directly to the office. There's a very good chance you'll get a spot, because in-zone students go to the top of the wait list, so you'll be #1 or very close to it as long as your school isn't oversubscribed. At virtually all schools, at least one student will decline the spot or fail to show up in the fall. OUSD will do another round of assignments after appeals and then again near the end of the year once families have committed to schools. Just make sure you are on the list before they start those assignments and you should be okay. Good luck! Another Oakland parent

You can absolutely still get into the hills schools. They'll likely assign you to your neighborhood school, but you can push on them and lobby hard for the school you want. It will also help to reach out to the school principal. Worst-case scenario, you start at one school and switch after a few days (that's what we did) when we found out the hill school we want had openings. Just push push push. Squeaky Wheel

Oh dear. I think your chances are slim, assuming that your Oakland hills school gets filled to capacity every year. Somebody has already snatched up that spot. This happened to our neighbor also--blew off the deadline, and didn't get a spot at the highly sought-after neighborhood school for kindergarten. Our neighbor declined a spot at a different OUSD elementary and chose to homeschool for kindy, then re-apply to the neighborhood school for 1st grade. It worked. Not sure if you'd consider this option, but it's possible you'd only have to homeschool for a part of the year. A spot may open up mid-year, and most everybody else on the waiting list would be happily ensconced in some other school, so it'd be yours for the taking. OUSD mom


How does the kindergarten enrollment process work?

Sept 2008


We are planning to enroll our son in kindergarten Fall 2009. How does the process work with OUSD? Do we call to arrange tours, and/or are there open houses publicized somewhere? We are lukewarm on our neighborhood school and interested in exploring other options. Thanks.

It can change from year to year, but last year in late November/early December the ''Options'' process started with an information fair at the Coliseum. The schools then have various tours, open houses, and parent information meetings. In mid January the options forms are due, and among most people I know it seemed irrelevant what you put down -- you still got your neighborhood school. If you weren't happy with that, last year the most important thing was to get your appeal in as quickly as possible. The only thing that mattered for your appeal (apart from what school you were appealing to) was the time and date stamp on your form. Take it down in person to the OUSD office their first day open after you receive your assignment. We did that without knowing how important it was and got a spot in May at one of the highest-scoring elementary schools. If you have the cojones to wait until the last weeks of summer or even the first week of school, it seems that you can eventually get a spot almost anywhere. Peralta was supposedly so oversubscribed early on that even siblings weren't getting spots, but I know someone who was in no special priority group who got offered a spot in late August. Good luck -- you'll need it

We went through the OUSD kindergarten enrollment process last year and I can honestly say it was the most stressful 4 months of my life. We weren't thrilled with our neighborhood school, although it is a fine school (one of the 'Hills' schools), it just never felt like a good fit for us. So, I went to a LOT of open houses and talked to a lot of parents and did a lot of research on BPN and greatschools.net. Many of the open houses happened as early as October and November, so get started on your research ASAP! I suggest making a point to meet the principals of the schools you're interested in, they are so instrumental in creating the learning environment your child will be in. By December, when the Enrollment window opened, I had a list of schools I liked. You can pick up an enrollment application at your neighborhood school or the district office. You can turn your application in at your neighborhood school, or take it directly to the district office (which I recommend) during the enrollment window (the enrollment info should be on the OUSD website in the next few weeks). The enrollment application gives you six choices. If your first choice is your neighborhood school, you're essentially guaranteed a spot (although they say some of the over-enrolled schools have to occasionally turn away neighborhood kids). If your first choice is not your neighborhood school, you're entered into a lottery for any available spots at that school. If there aren't any spots in your first choice school, you're then put in the lottery for your second choice school, and so on and so forth, I guess they have a 'sophisticated computer program' that runs all the lotteries. I don't know many people who got anything other than their neighborhood school during the first round of assignments (although we DID get our first choice school, which is not our neighborhood school...but I think we were in a lucky minority). If you aren't happy with your initial assignment, you can appeal your placement after the first round of assigned kids register at the schools they were assigned to. I know several families who got into their first choice schools on appeal this past year, so it seems like an increasingly successful process. I was very apprehensive about the process last year, but looking back, it actually wasn't anywhere near as bad as I anticipated. Almost everyone I know ended up in a school they are happy with. Some of the sweetest schools I saw don't seem to be on the average Oakland parent's radar...I was really impressed with Sequoia, Cleveland and Glenview in particular (and in fact we ended up at one of those three, quite happily). So I guess my final piece of advice would be to be open to schools other than the few 'desirable' schools that everyone seems to be competing to get into. I found wonderful things happening at every school I visited. Oh...and be nice to the people who work at the OUSD District Office. They deal with a LOT of cranky parents, so a smile and a genuine 'thank you' can go a long way toward advancing your agenda when you're dealing with them. Happy OUSD Parent

The kindergarten selection process for Oakland was extremely painful. There is something to be said about going to a private school just to be outside of the lottery process and to have some level of certainty about school policies, budgets and programs. If you need certainty and can't take a lot of stress, go private. For the OUSD appeals process, show up as early as you can and understand how the waiting list will be created. You'll probably get your assignment letter on a Saturday, so arrive at the assignment office early on Monday. Apparently parents showed up at the assignment office as early as 3am this year to get the first spot on the list. Have perserverance, be brave, and best of luck on getting your top choice the first time around. anon

In a nutshell,I'm sure the OUSD process will be similar to last year. Around December, there will be an OPTIONS Fair, I'd check the website frequently at: ousd.k.12.ca.us, to make sure you don't miss it.Then call the schools you are interested in enrolling your child to see when they are offering tours for Prospective Kindgerateners for parents.These usually fill fast depending on the school.These tours seem to run from January to June.Around a month after the Options fair, the paperwork is due to the school district, to begin assigning the children to the school of preference, around April/May,the school which the child is assigned to will notify parents to pick up enrollment packets for the child.This paperwork/forms should be completed and returned to the school preferably by June/July. Good luck! Denise


Oakland schools residency requirement?

June 2007


We own property in Oakland, but live elsewhere because of work commutes. We'd like to send our kids to the Oakland public school near the home we own, but have heard that the requirement for enrollment in OUSD is residency, not property ownership. If true, I find this unfair - our property taxes are supporting the school, after all. Has anyone dealt with this issue before, or challenged/brought it up with the district? Or simply ignored the policy and enrolled their child anyway? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks. pondering possibilities

The requirement is residency-- if you are renting the property in Oakland out, then the people who are renting are the residents, and their money is ostensibly being used to pay the property taxes. They are the ones who have rights to attend the school in the district. You have several options:
-Move back into the district.
-Apply for an intradistrict transfer. These do exist, and can be obtained, especially by a motivated parent (of a student who will NOT cause trouble and,although no one wants to say so, raise school testing scores)
-Lie and get into the school district on false pretenses. If you take this last route, know that there are people on the PTA who will take it as their personal mission to have you removed from the school, and that if your student were to ever get in trouble, the principal would be justified in expelling them from the district. The Berkeley School Board is right now looking into intensifying its system of identifying 'out-of-district' students. It is not clear what the outcome will be, but other school districts are certainly watching closely. Since at least one parent will be needed to transport this child to and from school twice a day (since school busses will NOT take a child to a house out-of-district without the school's knowledge), I would seriously think about moving back to your property. That way you bet the benefit of your 'property taxes' and won't be making the system even more 'unfair'. seasoned teacher

Well I think it depends on what school you are talking about. As you may have heard, some people that own and live in houses near some schools did not get into their neighborhood schools. If it is any other school, I doubt anyone will care. As for your question about the residency vs. property ownership requirement, if you think about it, it is pretty obvious why the requirement is residency-- renters are allowed to go to school too, the rent you charge presumably takes into account the property tax you pay, etc. That said, one of Oakland's school problems is underenrollment, so if you are trying to get into a not-so-popular elementary school or a jr. high or high school, you could probably get a legal interdistrict transfer or just put down the address of your rentral property and not worry about it. anon

Yes, the rules are that you must live in the community to be able to enroll your child in the public school. You do have choices:
1. You can apply for an out-of-district enrollment. There is a family in my child's school from Hayward, so it's possible. It may not be available for a high-status school, but for many other schools in Oakland.
2. You can illegally enroll. You run a risk that your child will be discovered (even mid-year) and have a disrupted school year. You will have to worry about parents who will report you (like me) if we find out. Are we doing something mean to your innocent child? I think it's the parents making the choice to expose their child to the risk. I'm also tired of the rationalizing that rules are for other people (whose kids are less precious?).
3. Send your child to a less desirable school in Oakland -- no one will question your residency, if you're not trying to scheme into a high-demand school.
4. Use your status as a property owner to lobby to change the rules to something more to your liking. good luck


What is the process for enrolling in kindergarten?

Sept 2006


I am looking for info on applying for public school in Oakland for Kindergarten 2007-2008 year. What is the process. How do you request a particular school. Any insights/suggestions about how to get the school you want. How did the new process work this year? Thanks

Re: Oakland Unified entering K process: (I am mom of girl who entered K at Kaiser this year, 2006-2007, from an appeal) Anxiety producing, but not as bad as it could be. Call the district office and make sure you are aware of the timetable, deadlines etc. Get as much info as possible about the schools you may be interested in. Lots of schools are in transition right now, so don't rule out your neighborhood school (You don't say where that is). From my experience principals have been great regarding visits, etc. Pace yourself as visits are exhausting.

The process itself: To be honest, I can't remember how it started--a call to the district? I think I got our ''Choice'' packet at the elementary school fair in January (call district for date). Talked to lots of principals there, including the one from our neighborhood school. Sent my choice in right away. Heard back roughly the time that OUSD said they would reply, and was assigned to neighborhood school (which I had not put down as one of my 7 choices). NO one I know got their choice of school the first time around (if their neighborhood school was not among the choices). If you do not get one of your choices, you can appeal, but you can then only choose one school where you will be placed on a waiting list. So as soon as you know you need to appeal you should 1) call the district office and talk with Noah Bookman (I might have that spelled wrong) and see which schools have long waiting lists (eg, some schools like Chabot were overenrolled with neighborhood kids and siblings) and 2) call the principals directly to get what info you can out of them re waiting lists. (This was my strategy anyway--I did not want to waste my choice on a school where I would be 20th on the waiting list). I sent my appeal in right away, and was called by Kaiser just days later. If you don't get your appeal, you will be put on a waiting list at that school. Then over the next couple weeks the schools call down the waiting list as they see how their classes are filling out.
Happy Kaiser Mom


Moving into the district mid-year

Aug 2005

We are considering a move to the bay area and would likely end up moving around December or January. One of the places we are most seriously considering is the Montclair area of Oakland. From what I gather you have a peference for your neighborhood school, but then empty spots are filled via transfer. If we move mid-year are we going to have trouble getting into the neighborhood school? One of our key criteria for choosing a house is the school zone, so I'd like to be sure we can get our kids in it. (Our son will be in first grade this year). We are also looking at Berkeley and Alameda, any thoughts on mid-year moves to those districts would also be appreciated. Thanks. Andrew

Hi there-- we live in Montclair, and LOVE it! The school district is seriously talking about changing things with regard to enrollment for fall of 2006 (these changes are due to take effect starting October of 2005-- just 2 months away). You can read about it on the OUSD website, or contact Noah Bookman at the OUSD . I think he could give you some really valuable information for your particular situation. fellow parent