Monday, October 23 , 2017, 8:25 am | Fair 56º


Orcutt District Considers Resident Preference for Charter School

Trustees could give in-district students an advantage in high school lottery

The growing popularity of the Orcutt Academy Charter program is prompting officials to consider giving enrollment preference to students living within Orcutt Union School District boundaries.

More students than ever are enrolling in the charter’s K-8 Casmalia campus and Orcutt Academy High School, which opened with the charter’s creation in 2008.

Orcutt’s board of trustees will consider whether to change the charter’s lottery preference at a meeting Wednesday night.

Hundreds of parents are finding their child on the waiting list when his or her name is not picked during a computerized lottery each February.

The Casmalia campus caps enrollment at 81 students, with nine students in each grade, and the high school serves up to 600 students, with 150 students in each grade.

Last year, 167 students applied at the K-8 charter, and 286 students applied to Orcutt Academy High, according to Joe Dana, director of charter programs.

Dana has been researching options so the board can be fair but also keep to an original charter mission of small class sizes with an academic focus.

Trustees can choose to continue the status quo, with double weighting in the lottery for district residents; raise the weighting of district residents; or grant residents preference over nonresidents.

“It has an impact on a lot of things,” Dana said of the lottery.

The district already grants preference for children of members of the charter founder’s committee, children of district teaching staff and siblings of current students.

Kathy Meissner, board clerk, said the board is leaning toward granting in-district preference at the high school, where 80 percent of students already live in Orcutt.

“Right now we’re looking at just addressing the issue at the high school,” Meissner said last week.

About 60 percent of students at the Casmalia campus are from outside the district because the school was meant to add students in a time of district enrollment decline, Dana said.

Students travel from as far as Lompoc, Nipomo and Guadalupe to attend, he added.

Meissner said board members are considering the change because they were elected to serve their school community.

“We’ve had some commentary from parents that they would prefer to have their kids have a higher priority,” Meissner said. “I think it’s good for our kids to have interactions with kids from all over.”

She added that the school has become so successful that a lottery modification may be in the best interest of students.

The trustees will meet at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at the district office, 500 Dyer St. in Orcutt.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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