2017-01-13 / Community

Parents have until Feb. 28 to apply for school of choice

Forms available on SVUSD website
By Michael Aushenker

Parents seeking to enroll their children at a Simi Valley UnifiÐied School District campus outside of their immediate neighborhood for 2017-18 have until Feb. 28 to apply for their school of choice.

Hani Youssef, SVUSD assistant superintendent of educational services, said the district will be able to accommodate most requests.

He said the “school of choice” process gets complicated only when there is no availability at a chosen campus at the requested grade level.

“Otherwise, there’s tremendous room for mobility,” he said. “It usually happens when you have more seniors graduating than incoming (kindergartners). That’s the way it is right now.”

SVUSD’s enrollment currently stands at 17,220 students, representing a drop of only 70 students since 2015-16. Over the past two years, officials have made a concerted effort to stem enrollment losses, which were as high as 500 students annually in the few years leading up to 2014.

Part of the effort to fight enrollment declines has included the creation of unique academic programs at various campuses.

Who is eligible?

Any school-age child living within SVUSD’s boundaries is eligible to apply to their school of choice.

Almost every elementary, middle and high school in the district’s 28-campus system is considered a school of choice. Exceptions are Hollow Hills and Vista Fundamental elementary schools and Santa Susana High School, a magnet school. Admission to those campuses is conducted via lottery.

The only students who may not qualify for school of choice are special education students with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). They may be directed to a specific campus tailored to their needs.

Historically, incoming grades—kindergarten, sixth, seventh and ninth—receive the greatest number of school of choice applications.

If there are more applications than available spots, a campus conducts a random lottery to select students.

Application process

To apply to a school of choice, parents must complete the required forms, available at SVUSD’s website. Parents may apply to more than one prospective school at a time.

“If you don’t get your first choice, we’re accommodating the next one on your list,” Youssef said.

Applications submitted after the Feb. 28 deadline will be placed at the bottom of the school’s waiting list.

The selection process begins in March, with notification coming as early as month’s end and as late as August before school commences.

Big picture

Youssef said some schools are more difficult to get into than others.

“Certain schools are always more popular,” he said. “(With some of the others) it’s very easy to earn a reputation. To change it is very difficult.”

Youssef singled out Arroyo with its focus on languages; Crestview with its emphasis on robotics, engineering and the arts; and Katherine with its medical/ health academy as among the breakout elementary campuses this year.

The individual focuses are part of the district’s Career Pathways program, which was implemented last year and gives each campus a unique identity.

“In another year, we will actually see the requests (for admission) and have a better idea on whether Career Pathways is enhancing these schools,” the assistant superintendent said.

Hillside Middle School has increased in popularity because of its direct nexus to Santa Susana High.

“If you attend all three years, you get into Santa Susana,” Youssef said, adding that Hillside’s test scores have surpassed those of the other two middle schools, Valley View and Sinaloa.

Youssef accounts for a number of variables playing into Hillside’s turnaround, including new leadership and its Santa Su-style arts-and-sciences focus.

Royal has emerged as a rebounding high school, with its standardized test scores in English surpassing Oak Park High School’s for the first time last school year, he said. Royal is also the only SVUSD high school with the International Baccalaureate program and Air Force JROTC.

Rising tide raises all ships

Outside school of choice options, SVUSD’s two fundamental schools “are definitely very popular,” Youssef said.

In the case of Vista’s recent National Blue Ribbon School win, “The community pays attention to that,” he said.

What separates the fundamental schools from other SVUSD elementary campuses is the heavy parental involvement and additional homework, Youssef said.

And, he said, when educators from Hollow Hills and Vista transfer to non-fundamental schools and apply a fundamental-level rigor and discipline to their new classrooms, the quality of education across SVUSD is raised.

For more information on school of choice, contact SVUSD’s educational services department at (805) 306-4500, ext. 4200, or visit simi.k12.ca.us/SOC.

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