ENCINITAS — Taylor Lessley lives seven houses down from San Dieguito Academy. She planned to walk to school with her childhood friends just as she did every morning for elementary and middle school.
That was until Taylor learned that she did not secure a spot in the district’s open-enrollment lottery. Now, her parents said they are going to have to shell out $700 a year so she can take a school bus to La Costa Canyon High School, six miles north of her home.
When asked how she felt about it, she could only shake her head disdainfully.
“They want her to get up at 6:30 a.m. every morning to take a school bus to a school even though she lives no more than 2 minutes away from a high school,” her mother, Jennifer Lessley, said.
The Lessleys were part of a group of 50 people who crowded the normally docile San Dieguito Union High School District board room to protest the district’s lottery policy, which they said is pushing neighborhood students into unnecessary commutes, which clog traffic, harm the environment and tear students away from their peer groups.
“They talk about being a green district, but they want her to get on a bus along a jammed traffic route,” Lessley said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
The protest was largely abbreviated when the school board agreed at the beginning of the meeting to host a community meeting to hear the parents’ concerns in a more informal setting.
San Dieguito and Canyon Crest academies have open borders, meaning that any incoming ninth grader must have an equal chance of getting into the schools. The district’s current policy states that students who live in the school district’s northern half who don’t get into their choice school must go to the La Costa Canyon, and those who live in the southern portion must go to Torrey Pines.
The parents said the lottery system hurts San Dieguito students more than other students because the distance between the two schools: Canyon Crest and Torrey Pines are a mile apart and located on the same street.
The state’s education code only allows school districts to give preference to minority students and siblings in the lottery system.
School district officials said that 98 percent of district students get into the school of their choice through the lottery system.
This is no consolation to Gary Sirota, whose son was the only one of his group of friends to not get into San Dieguito.
“When we went to high school orientations, counselors told us that the academic opportunities were the same at SDA and LCC, so the most important thing was to be with your friends,” he said. “My son, and others, won’t get that chance.”