Unhappy with OUSD School Assignment

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Assigned to neighborhood school - any way out?

March 2013

I just got my child's elementary school assignment & she was assigned to Carl Munck. Although it is the closest to me, I applied for the options program because I had not heard 1 good thing about Carl Munck. Can anyone shed some light on the school? Is there any other way around this assignment? Panicked mother

Try Community School for Creative Education. It is a sweet public charter in Oakland that is still accepting applications for Kindergarten. maya

Appeal! Go down to the district office and request to be put on the waiting list for the school you want. They may try to discourage you; that the wait list is long, but get on it anyway. I got the school of my choice this way. If you are willing to wait through the summer, and maybe even to the first week of school, the chances are high that you will get the school you want. In my son's K class this year there were a few kids who arrived after the first day of school since several kids who were assigned didn't show up and didn't tell the school. The school has to hold those spots for a certain number of days, and after that they open up to the waiting list. Stick to your guns! anon

Hi, I know several families at Munck who are perfectly happy there. The staff is very caring, there are some great teachers and the diversity is a huge bonus. Before you write it off, why not pay a visit and consider it against the criteria that are important to you. Kim

Advice for OUSD appeals-didn't get into any of 6 choices

March 2011

I read the postings about OUSD School Choice and Open Enrollment and I need advice for anyone who has recently gone through the options process and appeals. We did not get into any of our 6 choices, we are hoping to get in to the NOCCS, however we know it is not easy - the percentage for getting in is not great. My son is going to be 5 in October of this year and his pre-school said he is ready for kindergarden, however our neighborhood school is Santa Fe Elementary and this was our assignment. It is program improvement school and I'm afraid he will not do well in Santa Fe. Does anyone else have experience with Santa Fe or advice for what you would do. I hate to hold him back - we do not have money for private schools and I don't know if we can still get into another pre-school now that it is getting late. We had such a hard time just finding good daycares, that I'm not sure I will have time to find a good pre-school now. I don't know much about homeschooling, and my husband I both work full time, so I don't know if we would even have time to be home with him. any advice? Frustrated mom

So sorry to hear your son didn't get placed in a school of your choice. I think you have a few things to consider...since your son has a late bday, you can consider waiting one more year. I would try and use every option available. Meaning, go ahead and appeal to OUSD, find an alterate preschool or day care in case you need to wait a year, and also get an inter-district transfer to Anna Yates. We also live in the Sante Fe zone. If we had not gotten one of our choices for OUSD, our back up plan was to send our child to Anna Yates for a year and then try again. Anna Yates is certainly better than Sante Fe, and much smaller class sizes too. Also, don't get too discouraged just yet. With OUSD options, things shift around a lot, especially toward the end of the summer. I saw another parent on hear who was also zone for Sante Fe. She put her child in Anna Yates while appealing to Peralta. She got a call for an open spot 2 weeks into the school year, but ultimately decided to stick with Anna Yates. Lastly, if you are zoned for Sante Fe, NOCCS is putting 2 lottery tickets in for your child, so that helps your chances as well. Best of Luck!!! very fortunate ousd parent.

Dedicate yourself to the appeal process. It does work. Email me if you'd like to hear more about our experience. viu

I'm surprised that you didn't get into any schools if you're zoned for a PI school. Did you apply for the hardest to get into hill schools? Here's what we found when we were desperate to get out of our zone school 5 years ago -- that there are some not-so-hyped schools that were easier to get into. Then there are the rising schools, which are on an upward trajectory.

At that time, Cleveland (near the lake) was fairly easy to get into (I believe this is no longer the case, but it still doesn't have the hype some other schools like Peralta and Chabot do). Our second kid is starting K in the fall and will go to our neighborhood school, Piedmont Ave. which we avoided 5 years ago. New principal and now it's a rising school. It will never have stratospheric test scores because of its demographics, but it's doing a fine job. I'm sure there are other schools that are similarly rising. Look around and be open minded. I also think it's possible that the Title 1 schools (more low-income kids) will not get hit as hard in next year's budget. It's going to bad for all the schools. (Of course, less ability to raise money from the parents so maybe its a wash.)

I suggest that you appeal first to get into a school you really want. But, start figuring out a rising school that you can easily get into. Also, lots of things shake out at the end of the summer (and even into the first weeks of school). Remember, every study says that a child's home situation is the predictor in school success, rather than the school. good luck!

You can appeal to 1 school. All appeals postmarked before a certain date will be put on a waiting list in random order. There are always kids taken from the waiting list, but how many depends on the school and the year. Since OUSD is cutting school budgets by up to 10%, a lot of schools will be losing 1 or more teachers. That means class sizes will be bigger as they have to accommodate all the students in the school into fewer classes. Also, because of the budget uncertainty, they probably won't know for sure how many teachers and how big they have to make the classes until June. There may be more uncertainty about how many K students to accept, at least until the summer. There are always a lot of last minute changes and kids getting into the school (from the waitlist) either at the last minute or after school starts. Thats what you will have to live with this summer.

I would advise you to pick a school you want to go to (but maybe isn't the most popular school you would send your kid to), get on that waitlist and wait it out. Also, if you can send him to a year of pre-k, keep that as a backup plan and if nothing comes through by the fall, wait another year and try again. That is what we did with our fall birthday boy in 2009. We were on the waitlist at Peralta for months and had given up hope of getting in, but in late October there was an opening and we took it! He started K on Nov 2, but it all worked out in the end. Openings that late are unusual, so you may only end up waiting until sometime in September.

We kept in touch with the principal and with the assignment office (Mike Bonino). In October we were offerred spots at Chabot or Kaiser, but we chose to wait for Peralta (we were prepared to wait another year). But it did show us that openings are often available once school starts and not being there at the beginning of the school year was a little disruptive, but totally worth it in the end. Remember also that class sizes are getting bigger in public schools because of the budget cuts and so waiting a year may not be so bad for a younger kid. There will probably be 27 kids in K, 28+ in 1st and 2nd grade. There just isn't enough teacher time to spend a lot of time on kids that need a little more help staying focused and following directions.


We were assigned our neighborhood school

March 2011

I Did not get my child into an Elementary school of our choice, we put down all schools not including our neighborhood school, and got our neighboorhood school. We are not happy and going to make an appeal. How does the wait list work and how many appeals can you make?

I called a few of our schools of choice and they had not sent our their letters to the children they are offering spots to yet. I had hoped to get an idea which school I should put down so that we would get into any of our 6 choices, however, the schools were no help, because they have to wait for the children to register before they know the projected attendance apparently. Does anyone have any advice? Thank you please help

See my response to the other question about OUSD school assignments. To answer your specific question, you do have to pick 1 school to appeal to and commit to that one. When we did it in 2009 we were assigned to Piedmont Ave Elem and we did register there to hold the spot but also appealed to get on the waitlist at Peralta. (Neighborhood school was Santa Fe). We later took our kid off the list at Piedmont because we decided we'd wait another year if Peralta didn't come through. In the fall, about 6 weeks after school started, we were offered spots at Kaiser and Chabot even though we weren't on the waitlists there. Still we waited and eventually got into Peralta. The important thing is to have a backup plan. For us it was another year of PreK. It could also be a less desirable public school (but one that you are willing to attend) or one of the many charter schools in Oakland. Most are not as hard to get into as NOCCS. Chris

I recently gave some advice to a parent who did not get into the school they chose. Perhaps it can help some other people.

Overall, I urge parents not to freak out about low-performing schools. There are often complex reasons behind test scores that have nothing to do with your child's experience.

- visit the school. Start by coming in after school and poking around the kindergarten classrooms with your kid - less intimidating than doing a class visit. Meet some teachers. Ask questions. Caring teachers who can talk to parents make the biggest difference in a school.

- talk to parents. Talk to neighborhood parents. Ask them what best and worst experiences have been.

Here are some things I've learned about public schools:

- API can be decieving. Parents want to go to schools with the highest numbers, but that's only one part of the picture. For me, having my son be around people from different countries (who of course don't score as well - until they know the language) was more important to me than being around brainiacs. Parents are the greatest determinant of a child's success, so early on, have confidence that your child will do well in any school.

- Don't be afraid of black kids, brown kids, or poor kids at your school. Schools with a high number of kids on the lunch programs get funding for great programs. Their parents all want the best for their kids, too.

-Playgrounds are scary. Kids are so big and noisy, and thinking about putting our babies in the mix is horrifying. But I mean it when I say you can make a difference! Our school had a horrible playground when we started, now it's green and drought-resistant and welcoming!

- Character education is important. Ask parents and teachers if they have Second Step or Tribes or equivalent programs. See what p.e. and playground programs they have. Sports for Kids, for example, really creates a great playground dynamic a fabulous thing.

- Parents really make a difference! People were afraid of our neighborhood school until neighborhood parents got involved. They started a yahoo group, set up pre-k playdates, built a community, started a parent's group. Today's 'scary school' might become tomorrow's 'hot school' once the energy and direction builds. It feels really great to be part of that, WITH your kids.

If you decide to go with a school you're not crazy about...

- volunteer once a week in the kindergarten classroom and try to find 4 other parents as well. Kindergarten teachers really need help. It makes a big difference to the kids, and you get to know other parents and their kids.

- know that you are doing a great thing for the greater good. The more you learn about how public education works, the more you realize it only works if people - especially educated people with some skills - participate. Kristen


I didn't get any of my 6 choices - what next?

March 2010

I am a parent of an incoming Kinder and I completed the Options enrollment form for Oakland Unified Schools and was told at the options enrollment process meeting back in December to list 6 schools I would like to get into and I am guaranteed to at least get 1 of my choices. Well, I didn't get any of my choices. They assigned me to my neighborhood school.

After reading the Appeals process paperwork, I am told that I need only petition/appeal one school of my choice. The issue I have is that I have no idea which of my original 6 I would have a better chance of getting in at? Sorry (teachers) for ending my sentence with a preposition. :-)

Anywho, when I went to the tours and asked about potential class sizes and incoming neighborhood kids, siblings, and others, none of the principles or tour guides seem to have a clue about potential slots open for outsiders. I feel like I am shooting in the dark here. How am I supposed to put ALL my eggs in one school's basket without knowning my chances of getting in to that school?

Also, in terms of my appeal letter, does someone know on what grounds my appeal should be submitted? In other words, what situations or circumstances will make my appeal stronger for my son?

I am desperately seeking answers, if any of you parents have navigated this process, or you are a teacher, principle, or a OUSD employee, I would LOVE any feedback or insight you have.

Thank you so very much

You might want to take a look at this. It is from Katy Murphy's log. She writes about the OUSD. Apparently as of last year the Hills schools are really full of neighborhood kid so trying to get your child into one of those is difficult. There are very few spots. http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2009/03/05/hills-schools-not-much-of-an-option/ Karen

We followed the advice we found on the Berkeley Parent Network to appeal last year for the 2009-10 school year. Though the advice was a couple of years old, it was still relevant. This is what we did:

We put down the schools we wanted on the Options form, listing Crocker Highlands first and our neighborhood school last. In late February or early March we got a letter that said we had been assigned to our neighborhood school. My husband went down to the School Assignment office the Monday after we received our assignment letter at 5:00 am to stand in line to appeal to Crocker. We were about 3rd or 4th in line. He filled out the appeal form. Some time in May we got another letter saying our appeal had been denied. My husband went down again to the School Assignment office and said we still wanted Crocker. About 2 weeks later we got a call from the office saying that our appeal to Crocker had been granted. A few notes:

1) Michael Bonino at the schools assignment office was very helpful. I don't know if he is still there, but try calling the office.

2) If you received the assignment letter a few weeks ago and missed the Monday morning line, I would still appeal to the school you want. Be peristent. Every time the office tells you your appeal has not been accepted, tell them you still want to go to the school of your choice.

3) One thing I appreciated about the interim principal of Crocker last year was that she was clear about how many appeals had gotten in. She told us all appeals the year before we started had been accepted but that the year before that, not all had. Some of the schools we looked at wouldn't give us any information about this. Ellen

The Elementary Options brochure on the OUSD website lists, for each school, the percentage of families who were accepted (out of those who chose it as their first-choice school). So, a 100% school is easiest to get into, and a 40% is harder. Here's the link: http://publicportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/19941081118174370/lib/19941081118174370/ousd_options_broch_ELEMENTARY10-11.pdf and if that doesn't work, click through from the ''enroll'' portion of the ''for students and familes'' page at http://ousd.k12.ca.us. Marta

Worried about our local school assignment

April 2008

My son will attend our local grade school this fall, and I am already worried about it. We applied to a few private schools but got no financial help and so we are forced to go with the 'option' of our nearby school. My child will be in the minority - the school has 3% Caucasian kids; it is mostly working class, nice kids, but I feel a bit out of place. The teachers are long timers who do not like to have parents in the classroom, which makes me nervous; there are very few extras like art, music, computers, Spanish. I could do some things after school, but with the all day K I have been told not to schedule anything more for K year!! We are thinking if the Oakland school isn't adequate we will try to move. Any advice on where to go? Piedmont, Albany, Lafayette?? We love Oakland, but also love our kids, and want them to get a good education. Thanks...

you are still pretty early in the game, from my experience. i have a current first grader in OUSD. 2 years ago, when we ''walked through the fire,'' we found that EVERYONE got assigned to their local school in the first round. so then you ''appeal.'' and you STILL get your local school, but do get to choose which other school to be put on the waiting list for. THEN... you wait. we got the news that we got into our first choice school in mid may. some of my daughter's classmates found out in july.

during all this time, be in frequent contact with your preferred school. see if the principal has a ''list'' of his/her own of interested out of neighborhood families. go to volunteer days (garden/work days, festival, garage sale...), talk to current parents, talk to the principal, the secretary, the parent group/PTA...

i nearly gave up on my preferred school, and switched to the waiting list of a school i thought we'd stand more chance of getting into (one where the waiting list was shorter). two days later the principle of my preferred school called me and curtly said, ''i'm about to take everyone on the waiting list, and you are in my 'book,' but you are not on the waiting list. get on it.'' i quickly made a phone call and sent an email to OUSD to switch us back to our preferred school's list, and we got in that next day. the principals do not have the ability to pick and choose from the waiting list, but they DO want motivated families, and will help you though the process, if you show them you are willing to invest your time and energy in their school.
signed: learned to have nerves of steel

Have you talked to any of the families that attend the school? I find that many people just assume the school is bad - based on what other people say, what the papers say, what real estate agents say, etc. Visit the school, meet the parents/families/kids ... then decide. T.S.


My son's kindergarden assignment sucks!

April 2007


I am in the Oakland Unified School district..the elementary school my son has been assigned to is Santa Fe....unacceptable according to lots, including people who work for the district. I filled out an ''options'' form listing Peralta as my n8mber one choice...but we were turned down for everything...all six options. I filed an appeal, but was again turned down. I cannot afford a private school, didn't win the NOCCS lottery...I feel totally helpless. I cannot send him to a school that I would have considered a nightmare as a kid.. I went to all public schools in Berkeley...including continuation high school, so I'm no prude. anyone have any ideas? thanks, tresca tresca

I am assuming that Santa Fe is your neighborhood school. It was placed on PI starting in the 2006-2007 school year. This probably didn't assist you in the lottery, although it would give you lottery priority if you were to delay and re-apply next year (is this an option for you?) If you reapply, then make a more conservative first choice, not somewhere so wildly popular as Peralta, Chabot, etc that can't even accomodate siblings. My understanding of the lottery is that choices 2-6 on your list are basically ignored because the lottery tries to assign everyone to their first choice first and that fills all the seats leaving no room for 2nd choices, 3rd choices, etc. There are more charters than NOCCs: Lighthouse, Berkeley Maynard, and EBCC are all in North Oakland. You have missed that application deadline, but all are posssibilities if you go for it again next year. Berkeley Maynard (in the old Golden Gate School on San Pablo) is new (so not wildly popular YET) and accepted applications until the start of school last year: check with them, thay may have space available. Good luck
-Parent in the Santa Fe neighborhood


Our neighborhood school was overenrolled - what can we do!?

March 2007


I need advice on what tack to take to get my child into kindergarten at our local school, Hillcrest. Although we have lived in the area for years and registered on time, this year our child and several others were turned away. (The rumor is 25.) They have also decreased the class size by 10. I immediately got on the waiting list, but the district didn't give me any information about how that list works. The principal and staff are being evasive.

The school he was enrolled at is much farther from our house, and not what we want.

Can anyone tell me how we can find out how many children were turned away, how the waiting list works, whether the school has to at least go back to the class size it had last year to accomodate a few more children, whether it can use its large excess funds raised by the PTA(over 100K) to help accomodate displaced children? Does the school have any legal responsibilities to neighborhood children? Who in city government can advocate for us? Has anyone else been displaced from their local school in Oakland, and if so what did you do about it?

We cannot afford private school, and really didn't think would would have to.

Check out the Tues March 20 SF Chronicle. There's an article about Redwood Hts and how 15 local families were redirected for Kindergarten. They had an emergency PTA meeting and it appears that the school district is going to put in a portable and let all these families in. I think it's a Chip Johnson or CW Nevius column? Maybe the Redwood Hts PTA can give you advice. anonymous

The principal at our Oakland Public School sent out an e-mail reminding parents who are disappointed about their assignments that there is an appeal period (which apparently has to be done through the District Student Assignment Office--Portable 15). She has also told parents that when that process is over, parents can request to be placed on waiting lists. If a family is willing to wait until the last minute for an assignment or will accept a transfer at any point during the school year, it is very likely you can end up at your first choice school. In her experience, there are always families who move out of the area, transfer their child to a preferred school or choose to send their children to private school, so spaces will open. Our principal says parents who keep in touch weekly and are eager to enroll in a particular school often can make a change. She wants to keep our school fully enrolled because it keeps the money flowing. So she enrolls children throughout the school year. She also wants to enroll families enthusiastic about attending our school because their participation is so much stronger than families who wish their kids could go somewhere else.

To be honest, I wish families who don't want to go to our school could transfer out to their first choice school. Instead of working hard to create the school experience they wish for, some dissatified parents just discourage and sap the energy of the rest of us. Even the best schools aren't perfect.

I know a lot of us don't want to upset our Kindergartners by enrolling them at the last minute or moving them after they get settled somewhere. But you can work to prepare your child for that eventuality if you think your first choice school is the best place for child to attend. When we didn't get the Kindergarten assignment we had hoped for, I chose to keep my child at her assigned school. It's actually worked out very well for us. But I know others who have transferred and it's worked out well for them, too. Even a mid-year transfer can make sense if you think your child will attend the school of your choice for many years. A child could be at their elementary school for six years. So several months out of so many years may not be that significant for many children.

I think you deserve to send to your child to your neighborhood school. (I read in Tuesday's Oakland Tribune that a family who did not get into their neighborhood school was told it was a mistake by the the District Assignment Office and assured that their child would be re-assigned. So you might find it easy to get your child re-assigned.) But where ever your child ends up going, I hope you can make it a great experience for your child. OUSD Mom

You are not alone. This has happened across many ''hills schools'' in Oakland. I live in Redwood Heights and 16 families in our neighborhood were redirected to an underperforming school nearby. In our case OUSD and the principal had stated previously that all neighborhood kids would get in. That, combined with pressure for the displaced parents and other concerned citizens, led OUSD to reverse its decision and make room for all children within the Redwood Heights School boundaries. Official letters have not gone out yet and they are trying to figure out how to accommodate a huge number of incoming kindergartners. If I were you, I'd get together with displaced parents and others in your neighborhood and demand that your children are admitted through any means possible. One final consideration: there are families that use false addresses to enroll their children in the desirable ''hills schools''. OUSD should be encouraged to do surprise home visits to deter this practice. It's only fair that legitimate residents of the neighborhood are admitted first. The SF Chronicle wrote about what happened in our neighborhood: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/20/BAGPSOOA7F1.DTL Redwood Heights neighbor

Unfortunately, we hear that there were over 65 kids trying to get into Hillcrest this year. Given that there are normally 2 classes of 20, that means that the excess represents even more than one extra class. It may seem like the principal is being evasive as you noted but this is really a district issue. She can't make space when there is no space at the school. It seems that they did a lottery after they let siblings of current students in the neighborhood in, which sounds reasonable. Also, they placed those who did not get into Hillcrest very close at Chabot and Kaiser. Both of these are excellent, nearby schools with good test scores. I recommend that you get on the waiting list for Hillcrest just in case some people who got in don't go there and that you visit the school to which you were admitted. You will find that they are both great and that your child will have other kids from the neighborhood at the school. I think that being in a small classroom at one of these two schools would be better than being in an overcrowded classroom at Hillcrest. anon


Did not get your public school choice in Oakland?

March 2006

A group of North Oakland/Temsecal parents who did not get their Oakland school lottery choices are attempting to join forces to make Emerson Elementary School (located in the vibrant Temescal neighborhood) a viable option for our prospective kindergarteners. (Emerson is the neighborhood school for most of us; my daugher's local school is Santa Fe). We would love to hear from any other Oakland parents in or out of the neighborhood (the school is currently underenrolled) who would like to help us make Emerson a vital school. You can email me, or better yet, show your interest at EmersonSchoolNeighbors[AT]yahoogroups.com. Thanks

I think that not getting in to your Oakland elementary school of choice if you don't live in the neighborhood of one of the higher rated schools is a problem of supply and demand, rather than a problem with the Oakland School district registration office. There was a report in the Montclarion last fall that quoted several principals of local schools saying that the new registration process would have little or no effect on their schools because the students all or mostly come from the neighborhood. As long as my children have been in the OUSD, Hillcrest has not offered spaces to children outside the area, and this is now true of Thornhill. At Joaquin Miller, there have been only a handful of spaces open in kindergarten each year to children outside the neighborhood (and a long waiting list).

In previous years, parents registered at the local school so you knew where your child would attend elementary school, and it was a given that the open enrollment period to change schools would result in only a few available spaces at the coveted schools. My feeling is that the new central registration process has given parents false hope that there are suddenly more spaces available at the top rates schools, leading people to believe that there was a better chance of getting in than in previous years. From what I see, this isn't the case. Montclair and Rockridge are full of little kids (''baby boomlet''?) and, as the cost of private education and life in the bay area gets more expensive, more people in these areas will send their kids to public school. For the first time in several years, Joaquin Miller has 3 kindergarten and 3 first grade classes. Mom and supporter of Oakland schools

I also applied through the OUSD Options process for several of the high performing elementary schools -- for the record, I think there are at least 8, and probably 10 or more. However, our neighborhood school, Piedmont Avenue, is not Program Improvement, and there isn't an older sibling already attending one of the schools we applied to... You guessed it, we were not given a spot anywhere except back in our neighborhood. After the process was over, I exchanged e-mails with Noah Bookman, who is the architect of the Options process for OUSD, and who had already answered questions for me via e-mail prior to the Lottery taking place. He let me know that ''At kindergarten, 278 students were admitted through the open lottery round or approximately 12%. However, almost none of these admissions were at our most sought after schools. We had approximately 250 students assigned to their neighborhood schools because they were not admitted to one of their selections.''

We also applied to a charter school, only to find ourselves competing (unsuccessfully) with 74 other families, for 5 kindergarten spots! To me, it seems pretty clear that we will not be able to transfer to an already excellent public school outside of the neighborhood, this year or in the near future. Therefore, I am hoping to feel comfortable sending my child to our neighborhood school next year -- we're doing 1 more year of preschool, for a number of reasons. For those who live in the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School neighborhood, and are thinking some of these same thoughts, I hope that you will sign up for the Yahoo group I started. Here's the information: Group name: walktoschool Group home page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/walktoschool Let's talk about what we can do together so that our kids really can walk to an excellent Oakland elementary school. Piedmont Ave parent


Desperate for alternatives to our assigned school

March 2005


I have several friends and acquaintances who have children starting kindergarten in the fall. They put in intradistrict transfers, since their assigned school was considered really awful by most measures. None of them got accepted to any of the schools they listed on the intradistrict transfer forms. I also have a daughter starting kindergarten this fall, and I put in my forms for transfer as well, but can probably kiss that (already mediocre) solution goodbye, as I didn't even make the open enrollment deadline. I have also applied to three different charter schools in the area, all three of which have admitted that they have received around 100 applications for anywhere from 5 to 15 spaces, with decisions made by lottery. I have even looked at numerous private schools, though I cannot afford them. I am overwhelmed, stressed, and full of anxiety about what my daughter's education will hold for her next year. As a single, working parent, options are limited, so the really wonderful cooperative schools and homeschooling are, unfortunately, out of the question for now. But I am desperate not to put my daughter in our assigned school, (Emerson Elementary), which I've heard horrible things about. A couple of people have mentioned being in similar circumstances. What is the possibility of forming a small group of parents to hire a kindergarten teacher? Has anyone heard of anyone doing this kind of thing? Or does anyone have any other advice for me? I could really use any information anyone can offer! Thanks!

My advice is to visit the school (whether elementary, middle or high school) before becoming desperate. If the school does not allow visits, ask the office or PTA if there are any opportunities to volunteer in a work day, the library, or to read stories to younger students. In the course of my job, I have visited several schools with horrible reputations and found them to be just fine, schools to which I would send my child. liz

that sounds terrible. There is a public school or two in Oakland that have open enrollment, and need students. One is up near the top of Broadway near Claremont -- can't think of the name right now, but its reasonably close to berkeley. you can go on line to the oakland school district and find it. its a really good school. also, though at this point its getting really really last minute, you can apply to a private school or a Catholic Private school and ask for tuition assistance and you would likely qualify. That is what we do, and what many of the people I know do who don't have the extra funds for it. We are very grateful for the support and help, and it makes a huge difference in our ability to go to an independant school. I think of it this way: if we were to go to a public school (in oakland) I'd be spending the same amount of money on after school care plus other enhancements.