Rochester parents: It’s time to make a choice for school

Rochester parents: It’s time to make a choice for school

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester City School District’s school choice lottery is open.

That’s where parents can select their top choices for their student to attend.

It opened Friday, and is in addition to a lottery for students displaced by the district’s reconfiguration. RCSD can accommodate about 37,000 students. But right now, Superintendent Dr. Carmine Peluso says there’s barely even 20,000 registered.

Between that and the teacher and bus driver shortage, reconfiguration made a lot of sense to administrators and the school board.

The lottery for displaced students opened sooner and those students get first dibs on ranking their choices, and will likely get their first pick, according to Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association.

Neither lottery is truly random. Where you live and whether you have siblings already enrolled in a school will play a factor. But things like your grades won’t.

You can register on your computer, on your phone, or in person with the help of a parent liaison at any school in the district.

RCSD staff say no matter how you sign up, it’s important that you do, and make the best choice for your student.

“We really want our scholars to go ahead and make that schools election choice and that their voice, right, they get to select the schools they’re interested in, and we want to be able to encourage to help them in any way we can,” Ruth Turner, RCSD’s deputy superintendent for administration and support.

“Everyone is working collaboratively to make it successful. I suspect that it’s going to be successful,” Urbanski said.

The reconfiguration lottery closes on Jan. 5th. The general lottery closes on the 19th.

Students do have other choices, like charter schools. There are 14 of them in Rochester, completely free of charge.

As RCSD enrollment has declined due to several factors, charter school enrollment has gone up – way up. Twenty-eight percent of all kids in the city attend a charter school, according to representatives. The schools don’t charge tuition, are funded mostly through RCSD’s budget, but operate without the district’s oversight. They have their own board, set their own curriculum, and are held accountable by New York State.

And sometimes, they outperform traditional public schools.

RCSD’s four-year graduation rate is 71 percent, according to state education data. Of Rochester’s six charter schools awarding diplomas, their average is 87 percent, with most over 90 percent.

But sometimes, they fail. The elementary school Urban Charter closed last summer, leaving 450 kids without a classroom. That happened because the state found students weren’t performing well enough.

Sebrone Johnson is CEO of EDceptional, which helps oversee Rochester charters.

“It has to be kid-centric. It has to be kid-focused. We want kids to make sure they have, but again: quality options. We want to make sure that when you graduate, your diploma means something. That you are college- and career-ready – that you have that. We’re not interested in just having kids for the sake of being a school. We want them to be successful,” Johnson said.

He adds that charter schools aren’t here to compete against RCSD. They’re just another option for families – one that last year, saw 16,000 applications for the 2,000 open spots. They have their own lottery that ends on April 1st for next school year.

To learn more about applying to charter schools, visit