The Phantom Leg of San Francisco Kindergarten Application

It’s that time of year in San Francisco. And I’m not talking about the rainy season.

Now is the time of year when preschool parents are chewing their nails into bloody nubs as they wait for a skinny little envelope from the SF Unified School District to slink into their mailboxes with the results of Round I kindergarten lottery. These parents of incoming kindergartners hold their collective breaths as they wait to discover if they have been assigned to a public school of their choice or if they have to start all over with Round II of the insane application process.

I feel for these parents, having been there myself a year ago. I know how the red tape binds you like a straightjacket. How the rumors and swarm mentality make you want to plunge off a cliff like the other lemmings. I sometimes still wake in the night in a cold sweat, batting at my school-assignment fear like a phantom leg.

But rest assured, San Francisco parents, you will be okay.

You may be lucky and get a school from your list on Round I. Or you may not be so lucky.

You may freak out. Throw a temper tantrum. Cry. Frantically phone private schools on the off-chance that one of Napoleon’s great-great grandchildren is getting shipped to that lycée in Switzerland and has left a coveted spot open at one of the $20k-a-year “Day” Schools.

(By the way, what is a “Day” school? I’m sure I could google this one, but aren’t they all Day Schools? Who sends their kindergartner to Night School?)

I know how you feel as you sweat through your fleece vest at the newly re-modeled playground while waiting for that letter. I know the knotted gut, the twisted headache, and the bile that rises in your throat each time some well-meaning nitwit tells you to move to Marin with all the white people.

And I want you to stop. Stop right now and take a deep breath.

And know that everything will be just fine. Repeat after me. Everything. Will. Be. Fine.

If you don’t believe me, read the thread of blog entries (start at the bottom and go up) that chronicle what our family went through a year ago.

You may stress out. You may go through Round II and still get nothing. You may have to waitlist until the second week of school before you end up where you want to be. This is a pain in the ass and it is terribly stressful, but you will be fine.

Your. Child. Will. Be. Fine.

SFUSD is chock-full of cozy little schools and bustling larger schools. It is brimming with kind teachers and involved parents and stellar academics. And due to the bizarre shuffling that goes on at the start of the school year each year, everyone always ends up where they want to be in the end.

Don’t believe the playground hype when you hear people (who have never, ever set foot in a public school) go on about how awful the public schools are. Those people are idiots and they are wrong.

The first time I went to a K-1 performance at my daughter’s fantastic public elementary school, I very nearly exploded with pride at the amazing drum, dance, and choral performance. Another mother and I laughed all the way out the door at the fact that people pay out the yin-yang to get the private school academic enrichment programs that we get for free.

San Francisco preschool parents, keep me posted. I wish you the best and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

And don’t forget to breathe.


3 thoughts on “The Phantom Leg of San Francisco Kindergarten Application

  1. Stressfully awaiting your child’s kindergarten assignment?

    Please take a few moments to fill out my survey examining the San Francisco Unified School District’s enrollment process.

    To access this survey online, please go to:

    Thank you for your time and support! Best of luck to all the families anxiously awaiting the Round 1 placement!

    For any questions or for further information please contact me, Kathryn Riel, at

  2. Pingback: Evolution of a Public School Parent | The Foggiest Idea

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