Canyon Crest waitlist blues, Rancho Santa Fe stipends granted

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

Success has its price. The increasing popularity of Canyon Crest Academy as a school of choice has resulted this year in more lottery applications for incoming ninth grade than any other year since the school opened in 2004.

Because it’s public school, those accepted are not obligated to attend. There is no deposit required, no financial risk at stake, no sign-on-the-dotted-line agreement.

Typically a certain percentage of students accepted by lottery at a school of choice decides later to attend a different high school, usually their boundary school which in the southern portion of the San Dieguito Union High School District is Torrey Pines.

So the district has learned to overbook, just like airlines do, and admit more kids over the allowable enrollment, expecting a certain number to opt out. Then kids are accepted from the waitlist as space opens up.

Historically, “there’s a certain level of attrition” when the district admits students in ninth grade to CCA, said Rick Ayala, San Dieguito’s director of pupil services and alternative programs, who oversees the lottery process at CCA.

Ayala, who is also the principal of San Dieguito’s Sunset and North Coast alternative high schools, said the district received 747 applications for CCA’s ninth grade for the fall of 2013, the most ever. He said 610 were admitted, and 137 were waitlisted.

With seats for 450 to 480 students per grade level (about 1,800 total for all four grades at CCA), the district admitted about 33 percent more incoming ninth-grade students than available seats.

But this year, more students accepted enrollment at CCA than expected. “There was hardly any attrition this year, not like in years past,” Ayala said.

To accept students from the waitlist, more than 150 students would have had to decline. And that did not happen. In fact, of the 610 admitted, a whopping 556 enrolled.

Ayala called this “the biggest class ever” at CCA. So the district was forced to turn away all waitlisted students.

The minutes from SDUHSD’s May 16 board meeting stated that “all high school choice students on the waitlist were scheduled to be notified that there will be no one moved off the waitlist.”

Ayala said no exceptions were made for any student, contrary to rumors that kids excelling in certain sports were allowed in ahead of others.

Posted on the district’s Facebook page May 21 was the following message:

“This year, as in years past, we had more students select CCA and SDA [San Dieguito Academy] than there is space available so a lottery was conducted to determine admittance priority. Based upon many years of experience with this high school selection process, we know that after the high school selection process ends, we will have students who were initially admitted to either CCA or SDA who never end up enrolling. In anticipation of this attrition, during our initial acceptance process we over-enroll both schools. Some years the subsequent attrition is significant enough to allow us to invite students from the wait lists to attend either CCA or SDA and in some years there is not sufficient attrition to allow for further enrollment from the wait lists because the school is already at or above capacity. This year the enrollment attrition at CCA and SDA was not sufficient enough at either school to allow for further enrollment from the wait list. Both schools are at or above capacity for the 2013-14 school year and therefore, even with any further attrition, there will be no further students admitted to either CCA or SDA for the 2013-14 school year.”

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