Monday, January 28, 2013

Lake Washington School District institutes new variance process

Historically, students in Lake Washington School district have been able to choose which high school they attend. The district provided this opportunity through a high school open enrollment policy that accepted all high school in-district variances, which allow students to attend a school other than their neighborhood school. However, the addition of ninth grade students to high schools increased the number of students in those schools. That reduced the space available for students on variances.

As a result, the district has developed a new process for awarding available variances where the school’s space available is less than the anticipated demand. Each year, the district will review each high school’s capacity and the projected enrollment without additional variances to determine how many in-district variances the school can accommodate. If more applications are submitted than space available, the new process, developed with input from a parent survey, will be followed.  Read more >>

A December survey was administered to all middle school families to get that input. This parent audience represents the students who will make high school decisions this spring and over the next few years. The survey asked parents to rank order a list of preferences that could guide the selection of high school variance requests. Approximately 1,200 middle school parents responded to the survey. Parents selected sibling preference as their first choice, followed by the split feeder preference as the second choice. (Split feeders are schools that send students on to more than one school, such as Evergreen Middle School, whose students go on to both Redmond and Eastlake High Schools.) The remaining choices received substantially less support.

The new process incorporates that parent feedback, giving priority for variances first to students who will have a sibling concurrently enrolled at the school, followed by preference to students attending a split feeder who wish to attend the other high school into which their middle school feeds.

New High School In-District Variance Process
In-district variances allow students to attend a school other than their neighborhood school.
  • During the open enrollment period (February 1-28), parents/students will go to their neighborhood high school to fill out and submit an in-district variance request form specifying the high school of their choice.
  • If there are enough spaces to accommodate all requests for a specific high school, all requests will be granted.
  • If there are not enough spaces to accommodate all requests, variances will be awarded first to students with concurrently enrolled siblings, i.e., a brother or sister who currently attends that high school and will be there for at least one more year. If there are more requests from students with concurrently enrolled siblings than space available, the school will hold a lottery among those applicants.
  • For Redmond and Eastlake High Schools only, the school will then give next priority to students from Evergreen Middle School, currently the only split feeder. If there are more such requests than space available, the school will hold a lottery among those applicants.
  • If there is still space available for in-district variances after these two preferences, a lottery will determine acceptance of any remaining applicants.
  • For variance requests that are not accepted following a lottery, those students will be placed on a wait list and notified should space become available.
Since high school registration occurs in February, students will register first at their home/neighborhood school. If their variance request is accepted, they will reregister with the school accepting their variance.

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