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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an 'open' school?

Washington Open has a philosophy of parents, teachers and students all working together in an open, supportive atmosphere. Parent involvement in Washington Open is an integral part of the Open program. Parents are active in the classroom every day.

What is an 'open enrollment' school?

An open enrollment school is one which accepts children from anywhere in the school district, as opposed to a school that only allows students from a particular neighborhood within the district.

What is a 'magnet' school?

A magnet school is a public school with some program or curriculum that distinguishes it from a neighborhood school. They are called magnet schools because parents and students are 'drawn' to them like a magnet and serve as an incentive to parents considering private schools with special programs to keep their children in public school. Magnet schools may provide special programs such as math, science, or performing arts, or promote an alternative teaching methodology.

How do I enroll my child in Washington Open?

Santa Clara Unified School District accepts applications through its website during an open enrollment period that begins in January and is open for approximately one month. Families choosing Washington Open will also attend a scheduled classroom observation and a Parent Information Night. See Enrollment Process for further details.

Do I need to be part of the Santa Clara Unified School District to enroll?


Are there other open enrollment elementary schools?

The Santa Clara Unified School District currently has two open enrollment elementary schools: Washington Open and Millikin Basics+. Both schools have different teaching philosophies. You may wish to visit both schools and your neighborhood school before deciding on your child's school.

How do families participate at Washington Open?

Our families are strongly encouraged, but not required, to volunteer four (4) hours each week in their child's classroom. Families additionally support our "open" program by signing up for school community jobs and driving on field trips. Families with two or more children may alternate between their children's classes from week to week. Parents attend evening class meetings a couple of times during the school year where class curriculum, issues, and needs are communicated. Relevant parent training in curriculum and classroom skills is provided to prepare for volunteering in the classroom.

How are the parent participation guidelines organized?

The Washington Open culture provides a well-organized structure to support parent participation.  The Washington Open Parent-Faculty Board follows parliamentary procedure to adopt Standing Rules of Order regarding parent participation. Upon registration, families receive a Parent Handbook including these rules. After 40 years of parent participation, teachers, staff, and parents have a good idea about what works best for successful learning in an "open" program. Our teachers plan daily learning activities around consistent parent volunteers in their classroom each week.

How is my participation scheduled?

Near the beginning of the school year, you are contacted regarding your volunteer availability and preferences. A typical weekly classroom shift goes from 8:15 to 12:15 because that is when small group instruction takes place. Some classrooms (upper grades) may need parent volunteers in the afternoon as well. A Class Coordinator will work with you to meet your needs as closely as possible, within the parameters set by your teacher.

What if I want to participate, but I'm not sure I can teach?

First, if you are a parent, you are already a teacher! Second, your child's teacher will plan the day's activities, and provide full guidance on what you will be doing. And third, the teacher is always available to answer your questions or provide immediate support when needed. There are usually plenty of 'veteran' parents nearby to lend a hand as well. We also provide comprehensive training for the classroom in the first two weeks of school.

What if I'm not confident working with groups of children?

No one is at first. We all increase our skills by attending curriculum training and workshops to develop positive techniques for working with children. As your experience grows, so does your confidence.

What if I want to participate, but work full-time?

Our families are strongly encouraged, but not required, to volunteer. Many of our parents work at full- or part-time jobs. Some have flexible schedules, some make arrangements with their employers, and some have a grandparent or other family member volunteer. Our culture is that we work together to find the best possible way that all parents who have chosen a parent participation school can have their family contribute to the participation culture.

What about Washington Open's field trip program?

Washington Open classes go on many field trips, and over the years we have developed an organized and safe system for going out into the world. Compliance with our rules while on field trips is critical, whether you are a child or an adult! For more information check out Our Field Trips page. In Kindergarten, there may be 8-10 trips each year, lasting 2-3 hours. Field trips increase in number and scope as children progress through higher grade levels. Upper grades attend overnight trips that are an integral part to teaching to the whole child, and community building.

What is the parent's role in field trips?

Parents are needed to drive, supervise, and participate on field trips. If a parent is not comfortable driving or cannot drive, they may be able to attend the field trip as an adult rider or 'co-pilot', seats permitting. Driving on field trips requires proof of insurance at the 300,000/100,000/50,000 level.

How do you pay for field trips?

No child is ever denied attendance on a field trip for financial reasons. Field trip costs are paid for through two sources:

  1. Allocations from the Parent Board budget, which is money raised by our fundraising activities
  2. Donations from families to their own classroom

What are the fundraising activities at Washington Open?

Over many years we have developed a highly effective fundraising system. Our SCRIP program runs year-round, while our annual auction and Walk-a-thon are held in the Fall. We also have a couple of Spring fundraisers as well. We ask that each family participate to the best of their ability. There are ways to support our fundraising that suits everyone's budget and time schedule!  For details check out our Fundraising Activities page.

What is the Washington Open Auction?

Washington Open holds an auction once each year. Parents, teachers, students, local businesses, and the community donate goods and services to be sold at auction. The auction is in two parts: a silent auction where you submit written bids on items and services on display, and a live auction where the audience bids against each other on a wide variety of merchandise and services. There is also a boutique where you can purchase items sold at market prices.  For more information check out our Annual Auction page.

Why do we have an auction?

Slim public school budgets have made it necessary to raise money for our additional programs through community-wide fundraisers like the Auction. The proceeds are used for educational materials and activities that would otherwise be impossible to provide. Donations to the auction are tax-deductible. Helping with the auction is a lot of fun!