October 8, 1999


Changes Proposed to City Schools Integration Programs

Major changes are being proposed for the voluntary integration programs of San Diego City Schools that would remove a student's race/ethnicity as a criterion for eligibility to attend schools outside of the student's neighborhood.

The plan will be presented to parents and the community for comment beginning this week. A revision will then be submitted to the Board of Education for final action by mid-December.

The proposal grows out of recent court decisions and legislation, including Proposition 209, that suggest race-based student enrollment criteria alone are impermissible. The proposal attempts to maintain diversity and the district's commitment over three decades to improve achievement for all students in all schools.

Superintendent of Public Education Alan Bersin said, "We are proposing a system of choice and selection that avoids race-based criteria but uses other factors such a geography and demographics to continue nurturing diversity and encouraging integrated schools."

There are two main elements of the district's voluntary integration plan: the VEEP busing program and magnet schools. Both include free district bus transportation.

VEEP: the Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Program, which pairs schools from different neighborhoods and permits students to attend the non-neighborhood school. Some 10,000 students participate each year.

Magnet programs: Specialized educational offerings at 45 elementary and secondary schools.

Some 9,000 students participate annually outside their neighborhood schools.

The goal is to have school populations reflect more closely the district's demographic diversity by offering students the opportunity attend schools where their race/ethnicity is underrepresented. At present, 70% of district students are non-white, 30% white. The district's student population is approximately 141,000 students.

Here are the major changes proposed for each element.

For VEEP:

1. Any student who wishes to participate would submit an application between Oct. 1 and March 31.

2. Randomized lists of applicants would be generated for each school with space to take VEEP students, and schools would select from those lists beginning with the first-listed name.

3. No longer would the date of application or a student's race or ethnicity be factors.

For Magnet Programs:

1. Any student wishing to attend a magnet program not at the neighborhood school would submit an application between Oct. 1 and March 31.

2. A priority for eligibility would be established based on where a student lives. The district would be divided into four areas called high school clusters. Schools with similar race/ethnic demographics would be grouped into the same cluster. Students applying to a magnet school in a cluster with different demographics from their resident cluster would have a higher priority for enrollment at the school than a student applying from a cluster with more closely-matched demographics.

3. Randomized lists would be created from applications for each magnet school after the applications were sorted by cluster location. Schools with spaces to take new non-neighborhood students would fill vacancies from those lists beginning with the first-listed name.

4. No longer would the date of application or a student's race or ethnicity be factors.

"We are taking into account the different demographics of our city into account to benefit our children."

Added Bersin: "As a district, we also want to reach the point where every neighborhood has a quality school so that while magnet programs and VEEP play an important role, they will not be a requirement for parents who are dissatisfied with their neighborhood schools."

Parent meetings to discuss the proposal are scheduled from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. as follows:

Wednesday, Oct. 13, Mission Bay High School, 2475 Grand Ave.

Thursday, Oct. 14, Kroc Middle School, 5050 Conrad Ave.

Tuesday, Oct. 19, Lewis Middle School, 5170 Greenbrier Ave.

Thursday, Oct. 21, Clark Middle School, 4388 Thorn St.

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