ENCINITAS — All prospective and current San Dieguito Union High School District students who applied for admission to their school of choice during the district’s lottery got into their first-choice school, district officials announced Wednesday.
The news comes just a day after nearly 40 parents and students rallied outside of San Dieguito High School Academy to insist the district revise its enrollment policy to give preference to neighborhood students, some of which were initially kept out of San Dieguito last year as a result of over capacity.
“We just want our kids to have the same choice available to them as every other child in the district,” said Danica Edelbrock, who organized the rally. “We want a community school, we want our children to be able to attend elementary, junior high and go to high school together. I think it’s a no-brainer for the district.”
The district’s current model for high schools was borne during the 1990s when the district was opening La Costa Canyon, and parents and administrators were concerned that the new high school could create an ethnic and economic divide between the neighborhoods.
As a solution, the district changed San Dieguito from a neighborhood high school to an academy open to all students in the district that would have to apply for admission. The district continued with that model when it opened Canyon Crest in 2004.
Michael Grove, associate superintendent of SDUHSD, said that other districts have emulated San Dieguito’s open-enrollment model for new schools, including Mission Vista High School in the Vista Unified School District and Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad.
The district’s lottery process calls for each eighth grade student to declare one school as their school of choice. If more students apply for the two academies than the capacity allows, the district conducts a lottery.
Students who live in the school district’s northern half who don’t get into their school of choice must attend La Costa Canyon, and those who live in the southern half must go to Torrey Pines.
The current open-enrollment policy came under fire last year, when 65 students who lived within walking distance of San Dieguito were initially turned away from the school and were instead sent to La Costa Canyon High School. Parents argued that the policy ripped social groups apart and forced some parents into longer, traffic-filled commutes to La Costa Canyon, which is about 15 minutes away without traffic.
This prompted a series of parent protests of the district’s open enrollment policies, which in turn prompted the district to search for both long- and short-term solutions.
The short-term solution was for the district to boost the capacity at San Dieguito later in the summer, which allowed for at least some of the students initially turned away to get admitted to the school.
Then, the district set up a committee of parents, staff and other citizens to explore the district’s enrollment policies.
That group, which is called the High School Enrollment Study Group, has held a series of workshops in which they have solicited community input on five options the district has for future enrollment:
• Make all of the district’s four high schools “neighborhood schools” with their own boundaries. Currently, only two of the schools, La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines, have neighborhood boundaries, while San Dieguito and Canyon Crest Academy are open to all of the district’s students through the open-enrollment process.
• Drop all boundaries around Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon and make all of the schools open to all of the district’s students.
• Make small boundaries in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Canyon Crest and San Dieguito, thus reserving spaces for local students at the schools.
• Make the smaller boundaries at each of the local schools.
• Keep the current open-enrollment process.
Sarah Gardner, a member of the study group, said a number of parents have attended the meetings and given both benefits and drawbacks to each of the options, information the school board will use to determine whether to amend the policy or keep it as is.
Gardner said she believes a change is necessary.
“Our community is being unfairly impacted,” she said. “We have the least choice. Everyone can choose their neighborhood school, but we can’t.”
While Edelbrock, who couldn’t be reached after Wednesday’s announcement, said she was hopeful the school district would again provide the space for the 2015-16 school year, her concerns were long-term.
Her daughter, Isabella Edelbrock, is a 7th grader at Oak Crest Middle School, and could face the same predicament as the students did last year, she said.
“I hope there is enough time for the district to find a permanent solution before she has to apply,” Edelbrock said.
Isabella does too.
“It would suck if I couldn’t go here,” Isabella said. “I think the community should get first choice.”