Oakland’s brave new world of online enrollment has made it easier than ever for families to apply to the many public school options. And even if families missed the round 1 deadline for applying during open enrollment, it is still not too late to make a choice for next year.
I reached out to Enroll Oakland and also the OUSD Enrollment office for updates, changes to the process, and also advice for families on the best way to get the best school for their child. This will be the first in a series of pieces helping families to understand and better navigate our brave new world.
This is a question and answer with Enroll Oakland, based on questions I have heard from families as well as some questions of my own.
Q1. What if we missed the deadline for Round 1?
The open enrollment application deadline for most of Oakland charter schools for the 2018/2019 school year was on February 16, 2018. Applications received by this deadline were included in school lotteries held March 5-9. For OUSD applications that met the open enrollment deadline, results will go out after Wednesday 3/14.
If you missed the February 16, 2018 deadline, you can still submit an online application for 2018/2019 at EnrollOak.org. Applications submitted after the February 16 deadline will be considered Round 2 Applications — you will be placed on a waiting list at each of your selected schools, and/or offered enrollment if space becomes available. Round 2 applicants will be placed on waitlists on a first-come, first-served basis.
For applicants applying after the Feb. 16 deadline, you will see an Green/Yellow indicator next to each of the schools included in the application. These indicators give families an idea of the school’s availability of seats. In both cases, Round 2 applicants will be added to the waitlist. However, a Green indicator means there are likely seats available and Yellow means you likely will remain on a waitlist.
For the district (OUSD) application, if you missed the January 26 deadline, you can still submit a paper application for the 2018-2019 school year. Applications submitted after the January 26, 2018 deadline will be considered late and processed in the order received. For more OUSD enrollment information, visit an OUSD Welcome Center at 746 Grand Ave. or 1125 69th Ave., call 510-879-4600, e-mail [email protected], or visit www.ousd.org/enroll.
To learn more about the various stages of the public school enrollment process, check out our Next Steps page.
Q2. How did the process go this year, how many applications did you receive, What can you tell us about equitable access and community engagement?
Enroll Oakland Charters received over 14,000 applications for the 2018-19 open enrollment period (45% increase from 2017-18), with over 5,800 applicants (9% increase over 2017-18). In particular, we had a 58% increase in applications from East and West Oakland, regions which have historically had low participation in the open enrollment school choice process.
Our team started our community engagement efforts earlier, and we worked with schools and community organizations throughout Oakland to raise awareness about the open enrollment choice process and empower families to use the resources available to choose the best Oakland public school for their child. We held two public school enrollment fairs (open to both charter and OUSD schools), and hosted many enrollment workshops for families at charter schools and community organizations. Our multilingual advertising and communications efforts also sought to reach communities traditionally less engaged in public school choice – we advertised on buses across the city, billboards in areas, ethnic newspapers, and had an extensive digital campaign.
Through all of our outreach efforts, we encourage families to explore all their options — both district and charter — and choose the best Oakland public school(s) for their children. With a revamped EnrollOak.org website, we are hopeful that we made it easier for families to explore all their public school options, and access online applications for both Oakland charter and district public schools.
Q3. Were there any changes from last time— why did you make them?
Fewer Paper Applications: We had 85% fewer paper applications this year! We really encouraged families to apply online or over the phone because it is is easier, quicker and often produces less errors. The Enroll Oakland team and its participating schools distributed nearly 6,000 application how-to cards; we also processed applications over the phone, and many participating schools had application stations set-up to support parents in completing applications online. After the Feb. 16 deadline, applications will only be available online at EnrollOak.org (no paper applications in Round 2). Those without a computer, smartphone or Internet access can call EnrollOak.org at 510-454-9360 for help completing an application over the phone or you can you can visit a participating school where staff will guide you through the process. The Enroll Oakland team can provide phone support in English and Spanish, and multiple language interpretation is also available.
More Families Applying to Multiple Schools: For enrollment in 2017-18, we saw that many families were completing Round 2 applications. Many Round 2 applications came in March, following lottery results. In an effort to increase families chances of getting a seat at a school of their choice, we encouraged families to apply to multiple schools at several points throughout the process. For the 2018-19 open enrollment season, families were choosing more, and they completed over 2.5 applications per student (a 25% increase).
TK/K Applicants Got More Guidance: Many families still have questions about Transitional Kindergarten, and the age qualifications for TK vs. K. This year, we added an age cutoff into the SchoolMint tool to better inform families of the state’s TK/K age requirements. We are hopeful that this helped parents better understand the age requirements for TK/K enrollment, and schools received a pool of applicants that met the state age requirements for enrollment.
A Single Acceptance System will Shorten Waiting Lasts for Families: Each charter school will run its own lottery, which means it is possible to receive multiple offers. To free up seats for other interested families, we ask all families who receive an offer(s) to accept just one offer and make it required to accept by a confirmation deadline (March 29!). This year, the system is enforcing the single-accept request, so once a family accepts an offer, offers from other charter schools will be automatically declined. We believe that automating this function will give greater access to other interested families, and schools will also have a better understanding of families within to attend and register at their schools. Families can remain on waitlists but may only accept an offer at one charter school.
Next Steps Page Created to Help Families Understand the Process – We received the feedback that many people didn’t know what to expect after they submitted an open enrollment application. We created a “Next Steps” page to help families better understand the various stages of the Oakland public school enrollment process:
- “I already applied for next year.”
- “I have not yet applied for next year.”
- “I want to enroll for this year.”
- “Not looking to apply right now, just curious …”
Special Education Resources Were Added: We know the the open enrollment choice process can be confusing to navigate, and even more so if you are trying understand schools’ special education programs. Charter schools are public schools, and as public schools they are required to serve all students. We added two new special education resources, “Resources to Get Started” and “School Tours Guide – Common Questions to Ask” to our website Resource page. While we we are working on creating more comprehensive resources, we hope these can be a starting point and assist families with navigating the choice process.
Q4. Are there any upcoming changes you are considering?
This is only the second year of Enroll Oakland. We continue building our relationship with Oakland’s charter public schools as well as the Oakland Unified School District. The parents we talk to wish the process of applying to Oakland public schools were even easier and clearer – with aligned dates, even one application, but we are not there yet. We are doing our part to advance the cause of equity and ease-of-access working with charter schools, facilitating for example efforts underway to improve access for newcomer and latecomer students, as well as Special Education students.
At a more tactical level, in our Round 2 application, Green/Yellow indicators are used to show availability of seats. We are looking into sharing information about available seats during open enrollment. We are hopeful that by adding this information to the application, it will better set expectations for families and encourage them to select multiple schools for an increased chance of getting into a school of their choice.
Q5. How can families provide feedback?
Enroll Oakland is always looking to improve and better support Oakland families in choosing the best Oakland public school for their children. Enrollment resources are only effective if they are used, so we encourage families to provide feedback on the resources and/or overall process. In April, we will likely be collecting family feedback from a random sample of applicants. Additionally, families can always provide feedback via our website at https://enrolloak.org/contact/ or by emailing [email protected]
We continue to hear questions and concerns from families regarding the two common application systems that exist in Oakland. Some believe that a single application for both charter and district public schools would simplify enrollment for all families and minimize confusion. If you agree, let us know why here.
Q6. Is there anything else families or the community should know or that you are working on?
Continued Round 2 for 17-18: We continue to think about how the charter system can better accommodate late comers and how to simplify mid-year transitions. We decided to keep the Enroll Oakland Charters common application open year round. That means the families new to Oakland and/or interested in transferring mid-year can still apply to enroll in charter schools this year, their applications will be considered Round 2 applications and schools will enroll if space becomes available. We are hopeful that by keeping the application open, families can have greater access to Oakland’s charter schools regardless of the time of year.