Canyon Charter Enforces Enrollment Rules

Parents in the Polo Fields Area Must Enter a Lottery to Enroll Their Kindergarteners

Parents who live in the vicinity of the Polo Fields, defined by the Pacific Palisades Community Council as Area 8, have been told that their kindergarteners cannot enroll at Canyon Charter Elementary School for the upcoming school year and instead must enter in a lottery—a charter rule that is being enforced for the first time in 30 years.

According to Reza Akef, PPCC Area 8 Representative, responding to a public comment at the May 23 PPCC board meeting, parents had been told by Canyon Principal Nicole Sheard in January that they would be able to enroll their kindergarteners at the school. In May, that offer was rescinded.

According to the school’s official charter, the area of the Polo Fields is considered an “option area” and not part of the school’s “attendance boundary,” noting that the school’s first priority “is to admit students who reside in the attendance boundary of the school.”

If students who want to enroll exceed school capacity, the school conducts a lottery, which prioritizes candidates according to the order in which they were drawn, though it also stipulates “the school will provide an admission preference for prospective students residing within LAUSD boundaries, but not residing within the attendance area of Canyon Charter School.”

For 30 years, kindergarteners in the area of the Polo Fields have been given preference in enrollment at Canyon, a trend that has swiftly come to a halt.

“I would like to clarify that the enrollment process for Canyon Charter School has not changed,” Sheard told the Palisadian-Post. “The area in question is determined by the LAUSD Demographics Department. Students who reside within the ‘option area’ boundaries are to attend Brentwood Science Magnet for kindergarten and have the option to attend Canyon Charter School for grades one through five. Families in this area can choose to apply through the lottery for kindergarten and many have had success being admitted to Canyon.

“For the kindergarten year only, they do not fall within the attendance boundaries of Canyon, and are therefore considered ‘lottery’ applicants. For first through fifth grade, students in the area can enroll at Canyon as ‘residents’ rather than ‘lottery’ students.”

Sheard reiterated that the policy has not changed since the beginning of the charter.

“While this question about boundaries and the prospect of not being able to automatically attend Canyon for kindergarten can be frustrating, we hope that the community can understand and respect that the school has the obligation to adhere to the established laws and policies regarding enrollment of students,” Sheard added.

But parents in Area 8 argue that the enforcement is too sudden.

“One thing is clear: The Polo Fields must be included as residents for Canyon Elementary School,” PPCC Area 8 Representative Reza Akef told the Post. “Parents who were relying on this email chain in January are now being thrown through a loop, especially parents who actually moved to the area. A lot of parents I’ve spoken to said they moved because they were looking forward to sending their kids to Canyon Elementary.”

Akef said that it is believed that this affects about a dozen families in different stages.

“They participate in booster drives, fundraise for the school, invest in the school,” Akef said. “They feel they’re part of the school, and the school depends on these parents. We want to make it clear we know it’s not the principal’s fault.”

“We’re now being told ‘no’,” said a Canyon mom at the PPCC board meeting Thursday. “It makes no sense why they’ve decided to enforce this rule after 30 years. There’s a contingent of people who were previously relying on this trend to favor people in the Polo Fields area, now we’re being told ‘no’ and we’re not being told with significant enough time to plan even for an enrollment packet for Brentwood Science Magnet, which is where you’re supposed to go.”

The office of LAUSD Board Member District 4 Nick Melvoin had no comment as the Post went to print.