High school district offers no guarantees to wait-listed students, but promises to explore options

By Joe Tash

School district officials stressed Thursday, June 19, that no guarantees or promises were being made to students on the wait-list for the San Dieguito High School Academy regarding attendance at the school this fall.

But they did pledge to explore options for taking in more students for the upcoming school year, while also forming a task force to seek long-term solutions to the problem of too many students seeking too few seats at two of the San Dieguito Union High School District’s four high school campuses.

“It’s top of the page.  We’re on it,” said Superintendent Rick Schmitt, addressing parents whose children were denied admittance to San Dieguito Academy this fall due to lack of space.

The issue arose earlier this month, when parents of some of the 65 students wait-listed at San Dieguito for this fall turned out to voice their objections at a school board meeting.  A community meeting with parents and district officials was held on Monday, June 16, to discuss the issue, and the topic was also placed on the agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting.

Currently, two of the district’s high schools, La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines, are called boundary schools, meaning that geographic boundaries determine which students go to each of the schools.  The other two schools, San Dieguito and Canyon Crest academies, are called choice schools, because students can apply to attend them no matter where they live in the district.

However, because more students applied to San Dieguito and Canyon Crest than could be accommodated for this fall, a lottery was held to admit applicants.  Sixty-five students were put on the wait-list for San Dieguito, and 100 for Canyon Crest, according to discussion at Thursday’s board meeting, and officials said they didn’t expect seats to open for those on the wait-list.

Some of the parents who attended Thursday’s board meeting live within a few houses of San Dieguito, but said they will be forced to pay to bus their children to La Costa Canyon, about six miles away.

“Flat out, the district has failed these people,” said James Bush, whose child is one of the 65 on the San Dieguito wait-list.

Jennifer Lessley, who said she lives seven doors from San Dieguito Academy, described how her daughter was devastated by the email informing her of being wait-listed, because most of her friends from middle school will be attending the academy, while she will have to walk to the bus stop at San Dieguito Academy and catch the bus to La Costa Canyon.

“I’m asking you, the board, right now, please help us,” Lessley said.

Her daughter, Taylor, a 9th-grader, then tearfully addressed the board.

“When I start school in August, I will be alone,” the girl said, voice quavering.  “I know I will be miserable and not reach my full potential as a person and as a student.”

Chris Schwartz, another district parent, said school officials were missing the point.  Rather than establishing a task force, he said, they simply need to increase capacity at San Dieguito.

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