Love for the Lottery?

The majority of the San Dieguito Union High School District school board supported keeping the current lottery process for the Academy during a community meeting that lasted over three hours on Monday, Aug. 31. Board members John Salazaar and Mo Muir wanted a change to a different system. Salazaar said, “It makes perfect sense that those who live around the school [should have priority in enrollment].”

In contrast, those who supported the current system said they felt that it left the most room for students to choose their school.

Over the past year, a district enrollment study group conducted research to find out if there was a better option for high school enrollment than the one in place now. The final possibilities included creating a boundary around each of the four high schools in the district, creating a small boundary around the academies, or keeping the current system, under which all students choose their preferred school, and a lottery is held if the number of spots available in each school is less than the number of spots requested.

Some parents oppose the current process because they believe kids should be guaranteed a spot in the nearest school to them, which is not the case with the academies. The study group was originally created when some parents complained that their students could be “displaced” from their “neighborhood schools.”

The topic was especially heated two years ago, when some students were placed on a waitlist for the 2014-15 school year. Overall, however, all students have been admitted to their first-choice schools for the last four years. This has caused enrollment to climb to 1840 as of Sept. 2, 2015, versus 1649 as of Sept. 2, 2014.

Historically, only San Dieguito Academy and Canyon Crest Academy have used the lottery because they have generally been in higher demand than Torrey Pines or La Costa Canyon. Additionally, the percentage of students who choose the academies over non-academies has grown from about 48 percent to about 62 percent in the last eight years, said Assistant Superintendent Michael Grove at the meeting.

Since the system will not change, and enrollment between each of the schools needs to be balanced out, the district reported that they are looking for ways to increase demand for LCC and TP, including a possible schedule change in the 2016-17 school year that would allow students at those schools to take more than six classes a year.

LCC and TP may also add programs at their schools that put the academies in high demand, such as biomedicine and more STEM pathways.