Enrollment Demands May Force a Lottery at PaliHi

With applications flooding the enrollment office before its March 1 deadline, administrators at Palisades Charter High School fear there might not be enough seats for all fall applicants, including students from Paul Revere Charter Middle School. ‘I have over 1,000 applications right now,’ said Margaret Evans, an assistant principal at PaliHi, who oversees enrollment. ‘And they’re coming in daily. We got 15 yesterday alone’even one from Hawaii.’ Boosted by high test scores, a good reputation and severely overcrowded inner-city schools, applications to PaliHi exceed the number of available seats for the second year in a row. Having grown by more than 1,000 students since the 1990s and by 400 since 2002, school enrollment has been capped by administrators at 2,780. They say that increasing this enrollment would harm instruction by necessarily expanding student-teacher ratios and exacerbating teacher traveling (when teachers must move from one classroom to another). In November, the PaliHi Board voted to formalize the school’s admissions policy in response to the continued growth in demand for seats. According to the board’s vote, first priority for filling next school year’s anticipated 784 empty seats will be given to applicants from PaliHi’s historical attendance area, including residents of Pacific Palisades, Topanga and areas of Brentwood. Also included are traveling students from PaliHi’s 13 sending high school areas who currently attend Paul Revere. These 13 areas include Belmont, Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fairfax, Fremont, Hamilton, Hollywood, Jefferson, Los Angeles, Manual Arts, Van Nuys, Washington and Santee. But current Revere students who live outside the Palisades and these 13 sending areas, in places like Venice and Santa Monica, will be given second priority in admission. Third priority will be given to all other applicants. Although no applicant from Revere has ever been rejected before, that might change, say school administrators. In November the school predicted that a lottery would not be needed for Revere students applying to PaliHi, but now administrators say that a lottery might be necessary. ‘We were hoping we wouldn’t need a lottery for Revere,’ Evans said. ‘But this year we have to make changes. Every day the number of applications changes, and the number is not getting smaller.’ More than 200 Revere parents attended a meeting at PaliHi last week, and administrators urged parents to submit their applications before the March 1 deadline. ‘If parents aren’t Palisades residents or from the sending areas, they need a backup plan,’ Evans said. ‘They need to check out their neighborhood schools,’ The uncertainty of admission affects only Revere students who live outside the traditional sending area or who have not sent in their application on time. Administrators also say that magnet students at Revere are not guaranteed admission to PaliHi. Parents of Revere students who live in areas like Venice and Santa Monica reacted angrily to the board’s vote in November. They said that they enrolled their children at Revere with the expectation of sending their children to PaliHi. Because Revere has also grown rapidly in recent years, PaliHi administrators expect future enrollment problems. ‘Revere has 2,200 students spread out over three grades,’ said Amy Held, executive director of PaliHi. ‘And we have 2,760 spread over four grades. That’s a bottleneck.’ In addition to Revere’s large student population, the two schools have incompatible admission policies. For example, students from areas like Venice are guaranteed admission to Revere, but not PaliHi. Revere and Pali administrators met with LAUSD officials last week to discuss ways of aligning the school’s sending areas and controlling growth at Revere. A lottery will be held on March 15 to distribute remaining seats at PaliHi. An application must be received from all students planning to attend the high school, including local residents. Applications can be sent through the school’s Web site (www.palihigh.org). Evans said that she cannot confirm a student’s enrollment until after March 1. ————- Reporting by Staff Writer Max Taves. E-mail: reporter@palipost.com Phone: (310) 985-1607 ext. 28.