As Jed Lane mentioned you have to show proof of residency to the San Francisco Unified School District in order to place your children in public schools. This proof can be property tax bills, utilities bills, etc. Also, there is an enrollment process that begins in January of each year. Parents select the schools that they would like their children to attend and submit those selections with the enrollment application. There are many other "ins and outs" to the public school system in San Francisco that I'd be happy to provide if you are interested. Some great websites are: http://www.greatschools.org (for school ratings in the area) and also http://www.sfusd.edu (the School system). --- Kevin Feather, Zephyr Real Estate
I don't know about Pala Alto and Los Altos. But I am in Marin County, so I will answer for Marin County -
In Marin County, you need to be resident in a specific school district before your children can attend the public schools within that district. See Link for the Marin County Schools -
For schools within a specific district, you can request interdistrict transfer; and that will depend on the availability of a particular school. There are also Charter schools which you can apply to. In Novato, we quite a few charter schools and we have one elementary school where the students can only get in via a lottery system. Other special programs such as GATE (Gift and Talented Program) is by enrollment if the student fits the selection criteria of a GATE student.
Call the specific district you are interested in and ask. They will know the rules.
But, of course, you do not need to be physically living at Los Altos, all you need to do is pay rent. This is common practice. When you like your kids to go to a particuar school distric, you either buy or rent a place there. Again, you do not need to move there.
This is similar to President Bush where he is Texas resident, but he lives at Washington DC. He does not physically live at Texas, but if he got kids, his kids can go to schools there.
My sister also investings on many houses "withing walking distance" of great school district, and rent them to families like you with kids not living in the area but love to attend the great school. Many of her tenants are living at the house either. They will drive their kids to the school at the great school district, and in the afternoon, their kids will be able to "walk home", and at night, they will drive to pick up their kids at their "rented home" and back to their "own home".
The school districts care more on the money since 65% of property tax goes to school budget, as long as you pay property tax or pay thru rent, they really do not mind. What they really mind is the non resident alien kids to be their public burden.