Los Altos School District Boundaries – Neighborhood Schools?
Los Altos School District is revolutionizing its product “branding,” enticing potential new enrollees with a new logo and a new tag line of “revolutionizing learning for all students.” The District may also be revolutionizing one hallowed tradition – neighborhood schools. It seems that for 2013 kindergarten admissions, you can’t count on getting your five-year old admitted to your attendance area school … you can’t count on “becoming part of your neighborhood school” as promised by Superintendent Baier in Los Altos School District’s new video infomercial targeted at new families with kindergartners.
From the Kindergarten Registration Page of the new Los Altos School District web site
“A lottery may be needed if the kindergarten enrollment exceeds allotted space. The lottery will include the students who returned their registration materials during the registration period of December 7, 2012 – February 1, 2013. Each school will determine if a lottery is needed. Students not selected in the lottery will be placed at a school within the district and will also be placed on the waiting list at their school of residence. The waiting list order will also be determined at the lottery. When space becomes available at the school of residence, the student will have the opportunity to either remain at their current school or return to their school of residence.”
LALAHPOLITICO COMMENT: Those Los Altos School District Boundaries maps are a suggestion, not a promise. What happened to “taking all comers at their designated school?” The sanctity of attendance boundaries, the importance of not redrawing them, of not breaking up neigborhood ties, have been articles of faith used since 2004 to help justify keeping BCS in the temporary camp quarters at Egan. (Notwithstanding the 2007-2008 attendance area redrawing of the MV Crossings neighborhood across 3 different schools, an inconvenient truth that many seem to want to forget.) Or perhaps the prospect of a lottery is just a marketing ploy, a way to create excitement, and is actually part of the “branding,” creating a sense of scarcity, rarity, to make the unobtainium of your neighborhood school more desireable? An informal allocation process that in prior years was simply called “overflow” – a negative sounding thing – is now rebranded and tricked out as ”open enrollment” – a positive sounding thing?!
The Importance of a Neighborhood School Policy
to Residential Real Estate Value – Not!
Lots of good school districts don’t have a neighborhood school policy. For example, apparently the Saratoga school district is a much more attractive move-in destination for new parents of pre-schoolers than Los Altos or Cupertino. Read about it in “School Districts People Flock to – and Flee From.“
According to this real estate blogger’s data, Saratoga ranks 9th in the state in attractiveness for moving in with preschoolers, while Cupertino and Los Altos rank 62nd and 63rd and Palo Alto trails at 202nd near the bottom.
What’s startling to this Los Altan, where we are indoctrinated with the “neighborhood school mantra,” is that Saratoga doesn’t have neighborhood schools. You can apply to any of the district’s three elementary schools, but there is no expectation of going to the one closest to your house. Saratoga calls this Open Enrollment. So much for neighborhood schools being a big deal or a big draw for home buyers.
Nancy Gill Says Children First!
As local education writer Nancy Gill advises, parents ideally should match each of their children to the school which is best for each of them. From a Nancy Gill article, “Paying $500,000 [sic $1.6 million] for a fixer-upper in a top ranked public school system is no guarantee that their children will have a positive school experience.”
Per Nancy Gill, “Paying $500,000 [sic $1.6 million] for a fixer-upper in a top ranked public school system is no guarantee that their children will have a positive school experience.”
Also see her popular book, Parents Guide to School Selection in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, on Amazon. The book is also apparently stocked by Linden Tree books downtown Los Altos.
Lalahpolitico Editorial Comment — probably just a mini-lottery
I expect this “lottery” for K slots at some Los Altos School District K-6 schools will actually affect only a dozen or so families, if any at all. Ironically even a small chance of not getting into “your” neighborhood school will likely galvanize even more parents to double down on filling out applications for LASD, for BCS and also for actual private schools. Because if you are going to drive your kid to school for 7 years, it might as well be somewhere special, rather than the other guy’s neighborhood school, where you don’t quite belong. Get busy with that paper work!
We also notice from the other registration info pages on the web site that the slot shortage can occur at any grade level. So if you pay $2 Million for that house a block from the school without phoning the local school about the “waiting list,” if any, for grade 3 or whatever you need, you are foolish. Wednesday Dec. 5 is the next parent info nite at Bullis Charter. Thursday Dec. 6 is the one and only info night at all 7 regular LASD elementary schools. Principals will happily show you around by appointment.
Lalahpolitico likes the idea that more and more parents are chosing the best fit school for their kids rather than robotically applying to attend the neighborhood one. A downside is that it means not everyone can bike or walk to their school. On the other hand, Los Altos doesn’t have sidewalks, so it isn’t all that safe anyway.
The New LASD Website
As promised in November, the LASD website in December shows an impressive makeover. Cleaner interface, easier navigation, much more use of graphics and photos. It incorporates Google Translate into a couple dozen languages. The student registration process is now totally online, outsourced to Infosnap.
Sometimes organizations improve their “communications” without actually improving their “product.” But probably the years of competition from Bullis Charter has actually finally caused LASD to improve its product. The free Google chromebooks program this year just looks like more educational bling. However, the new “teacher coaches” suggests fundamental change. This is encouraging.