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Wait-listed freshmen admittance a relief for many parents

The San Dieguito Union High School District found a way to get all 190 wait-listed freshmen into their school of choice; a big relief for the frustrated parents of disappointed students who have now gained admittance to San Dieguito High School Academy and Canyon Crest Academy this fall.

“I wish you all could’ve been there when I gave my son the news,” Cardiff resident Jim Bush told the school board members at their July 17 meeting. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 14-year-old as happy.”

Superintendent Rick Schmitt said the district’s goal is always to match students with their first-choice school. Admitting all of the wait-listed ninth graders was made possible by recent approval for new buildings at Canyon Crest and San Dieguito provided by Prop AA funding, giving the district a long-term capacity solution to allow the district to build bigger classes of 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“We are confident that we can accommodate all students who select the academies at grade nine,” Schmitt said. “The solution is a fair one, a just one and it is about supporting kids.”

While some parents used the word “miracle” to describe the solution, it was actually the result of a lot of hard work, trustee Beth Hergesheimer said.

Schmitt said Michael Grove, associate superintendent of educational services and district staff, took the time to re-evaluate room utilization, work on master schedules and look at locations of special programs. Some classrooms will be consolidated and teachers will share teaching space as needed.

“I would like to thank the teachers for their flexibility,” Schmitt said. “They also believe that ninth grades students should get their first choice high school.”

Schmitt also thanked the parent community for advocating so strongly for their children.

In June, several parents questioned the high school selection and lottery process after 65 students did not get into San Dieguito — an additional 125 students were wait listed at Canyon Crest Academy. A community meeting was organized and the parents requested the district to explore the possibility of changing San Dieguito High School Academy to a boundary school. As it stands currently, the district’s two academies are non-boundary schools and any student throughout the district can apply to attend. If demand exceeds capacity, the district by law must conduct an unbiased lottery.

Schmitt said issues related to boundaries are complex, but the district is willing to examine high school enrollment though an ad-hoc task force and a community-wide survey to see if the district wants to continue to have “schools of choice.”

“It’s a puzzle of many pieces that has to be approached deliberately and thoughtfully,” said board member Barbara Groth. “I’m happy to hear there is community support for finding a long-term solution…It’s cool to hear that kids want to be at a school. It’s gratifying beyond our expectations.”

As parent Bush noted, it wasn’t just the parents of wait-listed children who spoke up in the last few months, but it was the entire community, which he felt was “remarkable.”

Encinitas resident Simeon Greenstein said he was impressed by the outcry of “brilliant, articulate parents energized by a commitment to their children” and by the district that was so willing to listen.

“I’m thrilled at the way the board and administration actively attempted to address what looked like a no-win situation,” Greenstein said.

Parents said that issues still need to be resolved, such as the potential to allow proximity to school to be a consideration in any future lottery and to ensure the district keeps its goals for “equity and excellence.”

Cardiff resident Chris Schwartz said that all of the families who got involved to affect change want to continue to help the district find a long-term solution.

“This is just the beginning of a lot of work and we know the administration has taken a major leap forward,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot volunteers waiting in the wings to help get where you need to be.”

Amid the joy expressed by parents of newly admitted San Dieguito students, Leucadia resident Sheri Perlman was still looking for her happy ending.

Perlman bought her house in the district last year and her two children were denied access into San Dieguito — they were told that no exceptions could be made. A sophomore and a junior, they remain on the wait list — while all the ninth grade wait listers were accepted.

“At best it’s unfair and at worst, it’s illegal,” Perlman said. “Nothing states that ninth graders get priority. The education code says the lottery has to be random and unbiased.”

Schmitt thanked Perlman for her comment and said that Grove would be in contact with her.

Currently there are 46 tenth graders, 35 eleventh graders and 33 twelfth graders on the wait list for San Dieguito. At CCA, there are 103 tenth graders, 41 eleventh graders and 23 twelfth graders on the wait list.


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