Children participate in an activity at Blossom Valley Elementary School in El Cajon on Nov. 28, 2022.
Children participate in an activity at Blossom Valley Elementary School in El Cajon on Nov. 28, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

If you have children, you’ve probably thought long and hard about schools. 

Should you stick with your neighborhood school? Or should you consider other options, like charters, magnet schools or even an inter-district transfer?

Understanding all the available options and making the best choice for your child can be a complicated and time-consuming process. That’s why we create the Parent’s Guide to San Diego Schools every year. This guide is designed to not only assist parents and guardians, but to reveal any inequities and opportunities in our schools.

With many districts in or approaching open enrollment, we went on Reddit to try and answer your questions. Here are some of the best parts of that conversation, edited for clarity.

Click here to download the Schools Guide for free.

What are the reasons that it might be preferable to put my kid in a different school than the one in the neighborhood?

There are a wide range of reasons parents may decide to choice out of their child’s neighborhood school — maybe they want a specific kind of program that school doesn’t offer (language immersion, a specialized visual or performing arts program or a unique curriculum), maybe they have concerns that their child’s neighborhood school isn’t as high-performing as they’d like or maybe even they’re a teacher at a school outside of their neighborhood.

If my children are choiced into an elementary school will they automatically be able to attend the middle school that their elementary school feeds into?

All school districts operate differently, but in San Diego Unified at least they will. Here’s a little bit more about that from their info page on school choice.

“Once enrolled in your school of choice, you do not need to apply again to remain at the school. Your student is Choice for the feeder pattern. Your student will naturally progress to the middle school and high school designated in the cluster of Choice.

The only exception is if you move outside of the school district. In this case, you must reapply as a student from outside the district and submit an approved Interdistrict Attendance Permit from your resident school district.”

It seems like the schools struggling the most with challenges like chronic absenteeism are the schools with the highest populations of Black and Brown students, which reflects national gaps. What are actions that would be within local control that could be taken to address these issues?

You are correct. With chronic absenteeism, the issue is particularly stark. I recently wrote about how many of the schools in San Diego Unified with the highest rates of chronic absenteeism are in majority Black and Latino and lower-income neighborhoods. In fact, of the 15 San Diego Unified schools with the highest rates of chronic absenteeism, seven are clustered in the same majority Latino ZIP code. That ZIP code also happens to be the one with the lowest median income in the county.

As far as what can be done, that’s harder to answer. Focusing more resources on these communities — tutoring, extra instruction, more at-home visits for families of chronically absent students — could help. But the district, and the nation, has been struggling with these inequities for … basically ever, and there’s been little progress.

I noticed there is a large drop in ELA scores for San Diego Unified as you move from elementary to middle and then high school. Have you noticed this, and, if so, do you have any insights of why that is?

This is something I’ll have to dig into. I will say, the data is clear that younger students are falling behind in other performance metrics. For example, San Diego Unified’s chronic absenteeism crisis is at its most acute in lower grades. Again, I haven’t done any number crunching, but older students having lower performance also makes a little intuitive sense. If kids fall behind in lower grades while they’re building the foundational knowledge they’ll need later in life those knowledge gaps can very easily compound over the years. Also, Covid could be playing a role in this, as it has with virtually everything else involving education.

Jakob McWhinney

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter. He can be reached by email at and followed...

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Managing Editor, Daily News Andrea oversees the production of daily news stories for Voice of San Diego. She...

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