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Del Mar Schools Put Stop to Out-of-District Invasion


After hiring a lawyer and detective to stop pesky parents in outside communities from sneaking their children into Del Mar classrooms, school district officials say they have stemmed the tide of bogus enrollment.

But officials say the start of classes may have helped solve the problem as much as any get-tough policies--a matter, they say, of being saved by the bell.

"Children are in school now--the major enrollment period has ended," said Stewart Seaward, principal of Del Mar Heights Elementary. "As the weeks have passed, we've had fewer and fewer trying to get their children into schools here in Del Mar.

"The biggest crunch comes at the beginning of the school year. So, I guess, maybe parents just ran out of time."

In the weeks before the current semester, however, school officials faced a landslide of parents who wanted to enroll their children in the tiny but well-regarded district--whose 1,000 students are divided between two elementary schools.

From San Diego to Encinitas, parents sought interdistrict transfers. Others took a more desperate tack--they falsified their addresses to make it seemed as though they lived within Del Mar district limits.

In the frenzied weeks before the start of school Sept. 4, school officials received dozens of applications from out-of-district parents seeking class admission for their children.

Although officials were flattered, they hired an attorney and investigator to ferret out the bogus applications. One apparently desperate parent offered three different addresses on the application in the hopes that one would come up a winner.

"People perceive us to be a quality school district--we have a reputation for excellence," Seaward said. "The bottom line was they wanted to get their kids into our classrooms. I can't recall anyone doing any begging and pleading with me. That sort of thing was done at the district office."

Finally, the district began sending notices demanding proof of residency to parents they suspected of falsifying applications. Often-returned mail to a bogus address in Del Mar tipped investigators to an errant applicant.

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