SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco’s Board of Education on Tuesday approved a new policy for assigning students to elementary schools, completely changing the way students are enrolled ahead of the school year.

In 2010, the district implemented the current choice enrollment system in which families can apply to any elementary school throughout the district, resulting in students being placed at their top choices based on available spots. The policy was meant to reverse racial segregation and provide equitable access to students, regardless of their family’s income.

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Under the new policy, San Francisco Unified School District officials will allow families to choose the elementary schools in the school zones they live in, being able to opt for schools with language pathways and special education programs.

Additionally, the new policy will give students who live in public housing or historically underserved areas and those with younger siblings preference.

“One of the things we’ve seen in our current elementary school assignment system is that choice has led to increasing levels of segregation. Parents regularly complain about the burden of comparing and evaluating schools, and the lack of certainty that comes with a choice, process,” Board Commissioner Rachel Norton said in a statement. “I believe the new policy will make the process of enrolling a child in elementary school simpler and more predictable, and better supporter diverse enrollments.”

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The board approved the policy 6-1. The policy will take 18 months to implement, taking effect in the 2022-2023 school year, SFUSD officials said.

The new policy came out of a two-year process that relied heavily on community input. Next, board members are planning to create policy that addresses developing school zone boundaries and making schools more diverse.

“Facilitating community engagement and building public confidence and support for the student assignment process are critical to successfully implementing our new student assignment policy,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “We know that families are busier than ever given the pandemic, so we will not launch our next phase of community engagement until the fall of 2021. In the meantime, we will plan for the engagement and systems and share more information with the community about the new system.”

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