Almost 21,000 empty classroom seats in the Los Angeles Unified School District are up for grabs in the second annual round robin for open enrollment, a program that lets parents pick their children's school.
The largest number of openings are in schools in the Westside and in the west San Fernando Valley, where the school-age populations have declined in recent years.
The open enrollment period, which ends June 9, allows parents to register their children in any school with openings. If more students apply to a school than there are seats available, then individual lotteries will be conducted June 12, district officials said.
The openings include 9,754 seats at 120 San Fernando Valley schools, which account for nearly half of the district's openings.
Assemblywoman Dede Alpert (D-Coronado), who authored the legislation enacted in 1993, said the program is designed to encourage schools to become more entrepreneurial in attracting students and to give parents more choice in selecting educational programs that best suit their children. "I am hearing that parents are absolutely delighted," she said.
The largest number of school openings--800--are at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, which is distributing flyers and conducting tours extolling its academic, athletic and extracurricular programs.
School officials said they hope to persuade local movie theaters to screen notices of the openings.
"If people wish to come here, we're telling them we have room," said Howard Reisbord, Taft assistant principal of student services. The school last year offered 600 openings and gained 488 new students--the largest group of students out of 9,810 districtwide who switched campuses in the first year of open enrollment.
Marshall High School in Los Feliz has the second-highest number of seats available--400. Grant and Birmingham high schools, both in Van Nuys, also have a large number of openings--384 and 350, respectively.
The most overcrowded schools in the district, where few if any seats are offered for open enrollment, are in South-Central and East Los Angeles, said Joyce Peyton, district director of school utilization. Several elementary schools in densely populated areas of the central and eastern San Fernando Valley also are closed to transfer students. Children living within the boundaries of the school must be accommodated first, as well as siblings of students already enrolled.
One of the most popular Valley schools--Carpenter Avenue Elementary in Studio City--already has a waiting list of 380 names for 25 open seats. Principal Joan Marks said the names were submitted by parents at a series of monthly orientations held since November. She said she was surprised when about 20 more parents showed up on the first day of open enrollment Monday.
All names submitted through the application period until June 9 will have equal chances of being selected in the lottery June 12. Last year, about 300 names were submitted for the five open seats, Marks said.
She attributed the popularity of the school, which has a current enrollment of about 1,000--to consistently high scores on a variety of tests, heavy involvement by parents, an innovative curriculum and team approach to teaching. Area realtors said that guaranteed enrollment in the school helps sell homes quickly in the neighborhood.
Because of the popularity of some schools, many parents submit applications for their children at several sites. Random-selection drawings will determine the order of eligibility on waiting lists, until all openings are filled, district officials said. If, during a drawing, one sibling's name is selected for a transfer, all siblings who applied to the same school also will be issued transfers.
The number of students participating in the transfer program last year amounted to less than 2% of the district's student population. Almost 400 students previously enrolled in private schools transferred to city schools following implementation of the program, district officials said.
Alpert said the competition among schools to attract students is expected to spur development of more innovative programs, although she said it is too soon to assess results.
"If a school has a dwindling enrollment, it will have to change in order to compete for the same clients," she said.
* UP FOR GRABS
Schools, from elementary to high school, are listed along with the number of seats they have available. B8
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Open Enrollment Status of Schools