Parents ask for change to school selection system

By Karen Billing

Parents Jennifer Hewitson and Britta Brewer graduated from San Dieguito when it was still just a high school, not an Academy. They had always hoped their children would follow in their footsteps and attend their neighborhood high school, too.

But now, because of San Dieguito Union School District’s high school selection and lottery process, there is a chance that they won’t get that opportunity.

Sixty-five students did not get into their school of choice — San Dieguito Academy — this year. Many of them live within walking or biking distance of the school. So a large group of Cardiff and Encinitas residents have banded together to ask the district to consider changing the selection system and making San Dieguito a boundary school.

Parents filled the room at the June 5 school board meeting and inundated the district with phone calls and letters to prompt an agendized discussion at the Thursday, June 19, meeting and a community meeting on Monday, June 16.

About 80 parents attended Monday’s June 16 meeting at Cardiff Elementary School.

“Thank you for advocating for your kids and voicing your opinion,” Superintendent Rick Schmitt told the room, which was full of parents and SDUHSD staff members. “We are in the business of listening to moms and dads and students.”

The board’s discussion at the June 19 meeting will address concerns and comments and how the district should move forward. A task force could be formed to look at the issue.

Schmitt said the district really has three options: to remain a mix of schools of choice and boundary schools; to make all high schools boundary schools; or to make all schools schools of choice.

Parental concerns about nonboundary schools have risen, as no students were accepted from the wait lists at San Dieguito or Canyon Crest Academies this year. Neither school has any room left.

“We have seen an increase in the numbers of students that are choosing the academies,” said Michael Grove, the district’s associate superintendent of educational services. He noted there was a big jump this year, with almost 60 percent of students choosing academies.

“The increase in the size of the schools is because of the increase in demand.”

Jennifer Lessley is a parent of one of the 65 students for whom there was no room. She lives seven houses away from the school. She walks her kids to Ocean Knolls School every day, but now her oldest will have to be at the bus stop at 6:30 a.m. to be bused to La Costa Canyon, a transportation cost she must incur. As a single parent, she’s not sure how after-school activities like sports will work without transportation.

“We appreciate having a choice,” Lessley said, “but effectively, my daughter is being displaced and her choice has been removed.”

Grove gave a history about how the high school selection process and nonboundary schools came to be.

When building La Costa Canyon High School in 1995, the district took a look at the boundaries for the new school and saw it would be creating a population at LCC that would be 95 percent Caucasian; San Dieguito would be 33 percent Latino.

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