Student Assignment Policy
- The assignment zones
- How does Boston Public Schools assign students?
- What are "priorities"?
- Sibling priority
- Walk zone priority
- What about students who have no "walk zone schools"?
- Priority for EEC / ELC students entering Grade 2
- Random numbers
- East Boston assignments
- Roslindale K-8 Pathway
- Wait lists
- Administrative assignments
For questions and answers about transportation, click here.
The assignment zones
Under Boston’s student assignment plan, the city is divided into three geographic “zones” — East, West, and North — for elementary and middle schools. Students may apply for:
- Schools in the zone in which they live
- Schools in other zones if the schools are within their “walk zone”
- Citywide K–8 and middle schools open to all students
All high schools are citywide.
For a customized list of all the schools, visit the "What Are My Schools?" application.
How does the Boston Public Schools assign students?
Assignments are made by a computer that is programmed with a mathematical formula. The computer program tries to assign students to their highest listed choice for which they have the highest priority.
What are "priorities"?
Sometimes a school doesn’t have room for every student who lists it as a choice. When this happens, the computer assigns students based on choice and priorities. Here are the major priorities, with the highest listed first:
- Sibling + walk zone
- Walk zone (a priority for 50% of available seats)
- Random number
Each of these is explained below. Within each assignment period, students with the highest priority are assigned first.
We try to assign children in the same family to the same school if the parent requests it. If you want your children to go to the same school, ask the Family Resource Center staff how to apply for sibling priority. However, sometimes a school doesn’t have room for all the siblings who apply for it; so we can’t guarantee sibling assignments. Be sure to list sibling preference the first time you apply.
Walk Zone Priority
Fifty percent (one-half) of each school’s seats are set aside for applicants with walk zone priority. Students have walk zone priority if they live approximately:
- 1 mile or less from elementary school
- 1.5 miles or less from middle school
- 2 miles or less from high school.
Students will receive priority for their walk zone schools within each registration period. No distinction will be made between students who live in one assignment zone versus another for assignment purposes.
Your child may be eligible for transportation to some of his or her walk zone choices. That’s because the distances between home and school used to determine eligibility for bus transportation are different from the distances used to determine walk zone priority. Schools coded ‘WT’ on the application are walk zone choices for your child with transportation provided.
What about students who have no "walk zone" schools?
- K2–Grade 12: Every home address in Boston has at least one walk zone school.
- K1: Students who don’t have a walk zone K1 program will have walk zone priority for the K1 program closest to home.
- K0: Due to the very limited number of K0 programs, students who don’t have a walk zone K0 program will not have walk zone priority for any school.
There is no walk zone priority for citywide elementary and middle schools.
Orchard Gardens K–8 School sets aside 75% of its seats for students in its walk zone.
Priority for EEC and ELC students applying for Grade 2
Students completing grade 1 at an Early Learning Center (ELC) or Early Education Center (EEC) will be assigned to available grade 2 seats before students new to the BPS or those applying for transfers from other elementary schools.
When assigning these students to grade 2 seats, including assignments from wait lists, the usual factors will be considered, including the registration period when the students applied, priorities, and random number.
The computer gives each application a random number. Random numbers are used to break “ties” between students who have the same priorities for the school.
How does this work? Let’s say there is one seat left for K2 at the Kenny School. All applicants with sibling and walk zone priority have been assigned. Three additional students, all without sibling or walk zone priority, listed the Kenny as their first choice. The student with the lowest (“best”) random number will be assigned.
East Boston assignments
Because of East Boston's unique geographic location on the other side of the tunnel, any student who lives in East Boston (EB) is guaranteed a seat somewhere in the neighborhood. This applies to students in all grades and programs, K2–grade 12. To take advantage of this guarantee, families must list their EB choices higher on the application than their non-EB choices.
Roslindale K-8 Pathway
- Bates Elementary School
- Conley Elementary School
- Haley Elementary School
- Mozart Elementary School
- Philbrick Elementary School
- Sumner Elementary School
Students from these six schools are designated as part of a Roslindale K-8 feeder pathway, which provides a priority, but does not require these students to attend the Irving Middle School. Families must still participate in the school choice lottery process, as this model is not an automatic feeder structure. This second highest priority follows sibling preference, which is the first and highest priority for enrollment. If availability remains after the selection by Roslindale elementary school students (who may come from the entire West Zone), students living within the walk zone of the Irving will retain a priority for the first 50% of seats. The second 50% of seats are open to students throughout the West Zone who had not attended one of the six schools.
If you don’t get your first choice, the computer will assign your child to one of your other choices, or your child will be "administratively assigned" (see below). Your child may also be placed on a wait list for one or more of your other choices. Here are the rules for wait lists:
- BPS will create wait lists for all schools where there are more applicants than available seats for a particular grade.
- A student’s place on the wait list is based on the registration period when the student applied, sibling priority, the school choices selected on the application, and a random number.
- No student will have a lower place on a wait list than any student who applied in a later registration round, regardless of priorities. However, within each period, a student’s place on the wait list can change if his/her priorities change, which may affect the placement of other students on the wait list.
- Families registering for any grade, K0 through 12, may be placed on up to three wait lists. Families who are assigned to their second choice school may be on the wait list for their first choice school. Families assigned to their third choice school may be placed on the wait lists for their first and second choice schools. And families assigned to their fourth choice school or higher, or who are unassigned (kindergarten only) or administratively assigned (see below), may be on wait lists for their top three choices.
- Families may request that a student be added to any wait list (to a school for which they are eligible to apply). However, students may not occupy more than the number of wait lists prescribed above. Students already on the maximum number of wait lists must go off one list in order to be added to another.
- Any student who remains a Boston resident may remain on a wait list after the beginning of the school year, regardless of whether or not the student attends the Boston Public Schools.
- All wait lists expire at the end of the second marking period (January of the following year).
Coming off a wait list
When seats become available, students will be assigned from wait lists in the following order, beginning with students who applied in the earliest rounds:
If the school has not reached its 50% walk zone target, students are assigned from wait lists in this order:
1. Students with sibling + walk zone priority
2. Students with sibling priority
3. Students with walk zone priority
4. Students with no priorities
If the school has reached its 50% walk zone target, students are assigned in this order:
1. Students with sibling priority (no additional priority for walk zone)
2. All other students (no walk zone)
The random numbers assigned to families during registration will be used as "tiebreakers" among students with the same priorities.
From mid-March through mid-August, as seats become available, children are automatically moved off the wait list into their chosen school. Families receive notification about their new school assignment with a letter sent in a mail.
For kindergarteners after mid-August, if a space becomes available at a school with a wait list, families on the wait lists are contacted in order. Families have 24 hours to decide if they want to attend the school. Families are contacted only at the phone numbers they listed on their registration form. This process continues into the school year through January as seats become available.
For students in grades 1 through 12, if a space becomes available at a school with a wait list, families on the wait list are contacted from mid-August through the end of September. After September, families are only contacted about transferring schools where they are wait-listed after marking periods (mid to late November and late January). Families have 24 hours to decide if they want to attend the school and families are contacted only at the phone numbers they have listed on their registration form.
All lists, regardless of grade, expire at the end of the second marking period (January of the following year).
State law requires that every child must attend school beginning in September of the calendar year in which the child turns six years old. If you don’t receive one of your school choices, or if you don’t return an application for a student age six and older starting a “transition grade,” we will assign the student to the school closest to home that has a seat.
For the most part, kindergarten students are not administratively assigned. However, if your child will turn six years old before December 31, the district will assign your child to a school even if you do not receive one of your choices. If child will remain five years old (or younger) through December 31, and you are not assigned to one of your schools of choice, you may return to a Family Resource Center to make additional choices.
If your child is already enrolled in the Boston Public Schools and you want to enroll in a different school next year, you may apply for a transfer. For the best chance of receiving approval for your transfer request, apply during the first opportunity for your child's grade level:
- Kindergarten, grades 6 and 9: Apply during the first registration period.
- All other grades: Apply during the second registration period.
You may apply for a transfer in later registration periods, but your chances of having the request approved decrease the longer you wait. All transfer requests received within each registration period are processed together.
Families also may apply to change schools during the current school year. Requests received by September 30 will be processed as they are received. Requests received after September 30 will be processed in two batches: mid-November and late January. Regardless of when you apply, we can’t guarantee your transfer request will be approved.
School Committee policy limits the number of times students may transfer to a different school:
- Elementary School: Once per year in kindergarten–grade 5
- Middle School: Only once in grades 6–8
- High School: Only once in grades 9–12