Open Alternative School can accept out-of-district students next fall, the Santa Barbara Unified School District decided Tuesday.

District schools haven’t accepted inter-district transfers for several years, but OAS parents and staff pleaded their case for an exception. The K-8 school is located outside the Santa Barbara Unified elementary school boundaries on La Colina Junior High School’s campus.

Families who live within a few blocks of the school can’t send their children there, which has made it hard to recruit new students, parents told the district board.

Once the no-transfer policy was enacted in 2008, the school lost 75 students over two years and has struggled to build up its enrollment, parent Marc Chytilo said.

The board approved a temporary transfer policy exception for the school so it can accept students who live within the entire district’s boundaries, not just the elementary boundaries. That will include students from Cold Spring Elementary, Goleta Union Elementary, Hope Elementary and Montecito Union school districts, but only for the 2014-15 school year.

OAS can accept up to 15 students from outside the elementary school boundaries and have an extended transfer deadline of March 27.

The school wants to add an additional class every year to eventually double its enrollment, and the board insisted that it couldn’t be done within the district.

Some board members took issue with that, saying it’s the school’s responsibility to promote itself and recruit students from within its own district.

Board members Gayle Eidelson and Kate Parker voted against the transfer policy exception, citing concerns about the school’s low academic performance and the possibility of reneging on the exception later.

In the past, the district has accepted and then rejected students as funding models change, which traumatizes families, Eidelson said.

“I want parents to have a student in a community that wants them there,” she said. “That concerns me.”

Parker said the Academic Performance Index is only 811, which is much lower than other district schools. It’s disturbing that the district and school’s first priority for change is with the size and not the performance of the school, she said.

She also said it was hypocritical for the board to increase enrollment without addressing the other concerns first, especially after the arduous charter renewal process for Santa Barbara Charter School.

Board member Monique Limon said the school already is an exception, since it’s located where it can’t draw students from its own community.

There is no space for the school on any other campus within the district, Superintendent Dave Cash said.

The school dropped from 10 to five classrooms and from 250 to 131 kids over the past few years.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at