San Dieguito board throws out lottery results, admits all students to SDA
San Dieguito High School Academy will accommodate all students this coming school year as the San Dieguito Union High School District board voted to lift the enrollment cap and overturn the Feb. 25 lottery that left 63 ninth-grade students out of their top choice school.
A random lottery was required after 491 students selected San Dieguito in the district’s high school selection process, more students than the 428 available slots set by the board.
SDUHSD Board President Mo Muir, who has strongly opposed the lottery process and voted against it twice this year, brought the item to change or eliminate the enrollment cap before the board at a Feb. 28 special meeting.
“We’re talking about a small number of students that did not get in,” Muir said. “The emails (we received) were heartbreaking, of students not being able to go to school with their friends and have success.”
The board voted 3-1 in favor of Vice President Michael Allman’s motion to remove all caps on enrollment this year, which included the admittance of a total of 135 waitlisted students: 63 freshmen, 22 sophomores, 34 juniors and 16 seniors.
Trustee Katrina Young was opposed as district administration has cautioned that the school has reached capacity and parents and students have complained about crowded hallways and bathrooms, lack of classroom furniture, lack of student parking and the inability to get into desired classes.
“I have deep empathy for students on the waitlist feeling disappointed, frustrated and sad,” Young said. “That being said, as a board member and mother, I also have a strong obligation to consider the current students and the impact the absence of a lottery would have on them.”
With no attrition (students opting to go to La Costa Canyon High School instead), the enrollment at SDA would be 2,246 students, about 137 more than there is today. Deputy Superintendent Mark Miller has stated the school’s ideal capacity is 1,850. With the extra students, SDA will require about five additional teachers for 2022-23.
Current enrollment at La Costa Canyon, home to the district’s only International Baccalaureate program, is 1,650 students.
In the San Dieguito district, students have a choice to attend their boundary high school, La Costa Canyon or Torrey Pines High School, or one of the two non-boundary academies, San Dieguito and Canyon Crest Academy, which have open enrollment.
If demand for the academy schools exceeds capacity, the district must conduct an unbiased lottery.
The Open Enrollment Act of 1993 does not allow geographic proximity to be a priority in the lottery and many students not admitted live just blocks away from their neighborhood school. The parents of students who did not get into SDA this year believe the lottery system to be “completely unfair” and crushing for their children.
“If a kid is able to walk to the school they should be able to go to the school,” said parent Dan Davis, whose daughter was not admitted despite living 300 yards from the school.
Other parents asked the board not to go back on its lottery decision as the school’s overcrowding is damaging students’ educational experience.
Moving forward, the district will need to find a solution. Allman has suggested the district revisit its high school enrollment process and options like making SDA a boundary school.
Miller said that the board underwent a similar effort in 2015 and the process takes about a year including task force meetings with stakeholders, demographers and community members before making a recommendation to the board. A discussion on the potential changes to the high school selection process will be on a future board agenda.
At the meeting, Muir also proposed the formation of a LCC Enhancement Task Force composed of a consultant, parents, the superintendent, staff and teachers to help drive more students to attend La Costa Canyon.
A vote to form the task force failed 2-2 with Mossy and Young opposed as they believed the focus should be broader, gathering data on school choice districtwide.
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