Oakland Unified School District’s enrollment process is open for the 2023-2024 school year. Here’s a helpful guide for untangling the process, put together by OUSD parents Macy Parker and Bekah Otto, with input from Sarah Wheeler, who invite all Oakland parents to commit to their public schools.
Why choose OUSD?
Our public schools have weathered the stress of a global pandemic while continuing to serve children and families every day. Our schools are funded based on the number of children they serve, so “voting with your feet” for the public system is one way to build a stronger Oakland together.
In Oakland, there are so many public schools where students are learning and thriving and communities are vibrant. We urge you to consider our public schools, and not just “the ones you’ve heard about.” Our schools are the places where our children learn so much more than just academic content. Yes, they will learn to read, and they will also learn to be good people. They will learn to be part of their community and democracy.
Oakland Unified is committed to equitably serving our diverse city. The district has made a significant commitment to early literacy, continues to serve as a nationwide example of restorative justice practices, and offers a variety of special programs – from gardening and mindfulness to career pathways in high school. It’s a big district, and there are a lot of schools to choose from!
Now on to the guide.
Key Dates & Deadlines for 2023 Enrollment
Now. Research and consider options.
Dec. 1, 2022 – Feb. 10, 2023. Submit application information, documentation, and preferences.
Mar. 9, 2023. Receive an offer from a school. Be added to waitlists of any that were higher ranked preference.
March 9 – 28, 2023. Accept or decline matched placement at a school. Scroll down to read more about waitlists.
April – August 2023. Waitlist offers extended, late applications processed.
How to enroll in OUSD
- Explore: Use Choose OUSD school finder to explore public school options in Oakland.
- Apply by February 10, 2023: Submit an application. (You will need to create an account and upload your IDs, proof of address, and your child’s birth certificate)
- Confirm: After you receive your offer on March 9, 2023, accept (or decline) your school offer by March 28. (See more about the waitlist below.)
- Register: Online registration and registration paper forms will be available in Spring 2023.
How the OUSD priority matching process works
School assignments are made based on prioritized factors, roughly in this order:
- Current student (for instance a 5th grader applying for middle school at a TK-8th grade school where they are already enrolled)
- Sibling of a current student
- Opportunity Ticket (from a school that is closing or merging; not applicable for TK/K)
- In the neighborhood zone for the school
- Parent is an OUSD staff member who works at the school
- Residents of Oakland
- General matching process
Choosing schools to rank
On your application, you will choose up to 6 schools, and your zoned school, for the lottery.
How do you choose? There’s no one “best” school! Some factors to consider:
- Proximity to your house
- Physical space and play set-up for TK/K
- Diverse student body
- Social / emotional learning resources and restorative justice
- A stable, experienced teaching workforce
Get Schooled Oakland is a new resource for advice about how to choose a school. Their website highlights some examples of great schools across the city that you may not know about.
For schools you are considering, check out the school’s website and social media, (but be aware that some schools may not have prioritized updating websites during the pandemic.) Many schools offer tours or recordings of virtual tours. You can also reach out to principals directly to learn about their schools. (You might ask: What are their instructional and cultural goals? What are they most proud of? Challenged by?)
What about test scores?
- Test scores, while widely available, do not tell a complete story.
- Do not assume that because a school had high average test scores that instruction is necessarily better there (Sadly, many additional factors correlate with test scores such as systemic inequities, maternal education, wealth, and race). A better measure to consider may be how much students’ scores grow during their time at a school.
- There’s also significant research that a warm, consistent school culture makes a big difference in how kids experience school, how happy they will be there, and how much they learn.
Language options in OUSD
Many Oakland public schools offer dual-language immersion education. Spanish dual-language elementary schools to know about:
- Bridges (K-1)
- Esperanza Elementary (TK-5)
- Global Family (TK-5)
- Greenleaf (TK-8)
- International Community School (TK-5)
- Lockwood STEAM (TK-5)
- Manzanita SEED (TK-5)
- Melrose Leadership Academy (TK – 8)
Two charter schools also offer dual-language programs.
- Yu-Ming (K-8 Mandarin immersion in Berkeley and Oakland)
- Francophone Charter School (French immersion elementary school in Oakland)
(Related: Beyond Oakland, Charter Schools in The East Bay)
Before and after-school programs
Extended care programs tend to be specific to the schools in question. Parents at every school work hours that extend beyond the school day, so most schools partner with a program to support care before and after school. All California schools have access to public funding to provide expanded learning (before and after school) and summer learning opportunities, and this funding has grown in recent years.
The district is working to secure automatic enrollment in afterschool for entering TK, K, and 6th-grade families who would like it. Each school will have more information about its afterschool programs.
Ask the schools you are considering what options they provide. How these programs are structured is specific to the school. Many schools have care between 7:30 am and 6 pm and vary in cost, activities, and exact timing.
Schools tend to manage expectations about these options, but we have heard that families do get places in the care they need.
Transportation to public school
For the most part, parents must get their children to and from school. If your child qualifies for an IEP (individual education plan), then you may qualify to have a school bus come to and from your house.
When making school decisions, be cautious of
- Greatschools.org ratings: More of a real estate tool than an accurate measure of educational quality
- Out-of-date anecdotes: Schools can change rapidly.
- Fear-mongering around “bad schools,” or the simple story that there are only one or two acceptable options (there are SO MANY options! Maybe too many!)
- Instructional “themes” or focus areas: websites can be out of date and/or over or understate the importance of school-based programs. Ask the school directly.
How the OUSD waitlist works
If you’ve read all the way to this point, you’re probably interested in the steps required after application.
On March 10, you’ll be automatically offered a seat at one of the schools you ranked. Schools you ranked higher than the school where you’re offered a seat will automatically add you to their waitlists.
For example, if you’re offered a seat at your #4 school, you’ll be added to the waitlists for your #1, #2, and #3 school.
Waitlists usually move throughout the summer and up until the first two weeks of school, at which point you get what you get and you don’t get upset (hopefully).