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No Boundaries: Was Your Child Assigned to the Nearest School?

Kindergarteners entering the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District learned of their school assignments in early April. Some families are not happy with the process.

[Editor's Note: Per the request of many Patch users, above is a photo of the map used in the school assignment presentation at last week's meeting of the BRSSD board of trustees. Patch will try to obtain a higher quality version of the map Wednesday. See map key at bottom of article.]

When the new class of kindergarteners in the  enter school in the fall, 80 percent of them will be attending the school closest to their homes. The rest will be attending schools that are either the second (15 percent), third (.8 percent) or fourth (3.6 percent) closest.

At last week's meeting of the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District board of trustees, Dr. Suzanne Roy, the assistant superintendent of education services for the district, gave an overview of the enrollment numbers for the 2012-13 school year.

251 New Kindergarteners

"During the first enrollment period, we had at total of 251 kindergarteners," said Roy, pointing out that that number represented students who did not have siblings at that elementary school.

This is the first school enrollment period following the district's adoption of the , by which students are assigned to elementary schools based on an algorithmic formula that takes into account the student's home address, physical distance from the school, and the number of seats available at the school.

"There has to be some kind of mistake."

That formula, although well intended, has some parents upset with the outcome.

"You can imagine how we felt when our daughter was assigned to the school farthest from our home," said Michele Maia.

"We are the ones your policy doesn't address," continued Mara, referring to the fact that although her two older children who are now in high school, attended Fox, but her daughter was assigned to Nesbit, several miles away.

In an earlier email message to Belmont Patch, Maia said, "After several reassurances from the district that the new policy would not result in changes for most families. I am wondering how many other families are surprised by their school assignments and question the stated goals of the new policy to keep families close to their neighborhood schools."

The board discussed the various capacities and capping levels at the schools throughout the district and because some are more impacted than others, not every student will be assigned to their closest school.

"No matter what we do we are going to make some people unhappy," said board president Brian Matthews. 

Another parent addressing the board asked if the algorithm had been tested before being put into place. "There has to be some kind of mistake. Did someone check to see why this happened especially since you guys knew this would be the biggest kindergarten class coming in," she said.

Maia requested the board take measures to rectify the situation and put a fairer process in place for assigning students to schools.

Percentages of K students assigned to their closest school

Assistant superintendent Roy gave a breakdown of the percentage of kindergarteners assigned each school (2012-13) for whom that school was the closest, second closest, etc.

  • Central: For 66 percent of incoming K students, Central was the closest school; for 34 percent of K students, Cipriani was the second closest
  • Cipriani: For 100 percent of incoming K students, Cipriani was the closest 
  • Fox: For 82 percent of incoming K students, Fox is the closest; for 18 percent, Cipriani was the second closest
  • Nesbit: For 59 percent of incoming K students, Nesbit is the closest; for 22 percent, Central and Cipriani are the second closest, for 4 percent Fox is the third closest and for 17 percent, Redwood Shores Elementary is the fourth closest
  • Redwood Shores Elementary: For 82 percent of incoming K students, Redwood Shores Elementary is the closest; for 17 percent, Sandpiper is the second closest
  • Sandpiper: For 100 percent of incoming K students, Sandpiper is the closest

The board asked the district administration to look into the possibility of re-assigning students at the end of each enrollment period if seats open up at schools closer to that particular student. 

[Map key showing residences of families in school areas: Yellow-Fox; Red-Cipriani; Blue-Central; Brown-Nesbit; Green-Redwood Shores; Gray-Sandpiper]

Denny Lawhern April 23, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Comments by Drew & Christine Morgan, REALTORS® 12:26 pm on Sunday, April 22, 2012 Hi Susan, From a buyer’s perspective, you are correct that many will shop for homes around the school where they would like their child to attend; and many put a great deal of weight on API scores—more so than I feel they should. With Belmont’s new “No Boundary” policy the school where your child will attend has just become a little more certain—not less. We sold a home last year to a client who lives in the Skymont neighborhood (by 92) and their child was enrolled in Central. Under the new district policy (using the “closest proximity” test) that would probably no longer be the case. I suspect Nesbit will only continue to improve in the years to come and so will the home values in Sterling Downs/Homeview area. It is a great neighborhood with a warner microclimate than some other areas in Belmont. All the best, Drew
Susan April 23, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Denny, what turns people off? I wish that people didn't make housing decisions based on scores. Unfortunately it is a fact.
Susan April 23, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Kerry, you mention Palo Alto. If API does not drive housing prices, why are prices in PA nearly double what they are in Belmont? Why are prices in E Menlo (rwc or red. City schools) so much lower than in W. Menlo? Why did certain homeowners, not parents, threaten to sue when 41-43 was almost rebound aired to Nesbit? It doesn't matter whether API scores are a poor metric for evaluating the quality of education, it only matters whether people believe it will change home values. Perception drives demand
Susan April 23, 2012 at 05:39 AM
Jeff, that is interesting that scores have risen so much. Do you know whether scores across the state have risen over the same period? This might be the case if the schools haven't improved their ranking vs other schools over the same period. Regardless, I think that people evaluate various towns and neighborhoods when buying a house. Thus it is relative score (or ranking), that drives differences in demand and prices, not absolute scores. This may be less so if the schools are all ranked in the same decile or two.
Jeff Selman April 23, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Susan - Juana Briones in Palo Alto in 2011 had an identical API to Redwood Shores Elementary, and one point more than Central. There are also elementary schools in Palo Alto with lower and higher APIs (ranging from 870-973). South Hillsborough, in the top district in the state, last year had an API of 970, which is statistically not that significantly better than the 940 of Redwood Shores or Juana Briones. But Palo Alto has higher real estate values than Belmont Redwood Shores, and Hillsborough higher yet. When looking at districts on the Peninsula with excellent schools, the factors that influence prices are going to be varied. As for comparison of relative API growth with a district such as Palo Alto, in 2001-02, it had a range of 852-944, so while it has seen growth in the last decade, just as has Belmont Redwood Shores, our district has seen more growth. I suspect that this has not stunted housing prices in Palo Alto. But it has resulted in a substantial influx of students into our district which is more affordable than Palo Alto.

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