Parents race to secure spot for their child in school district

How far will one go for a La Cañada Unified education? Ask the five dozens parents who camped out at district headquarters through the weekend — some for 48 hours — in order to be at the top of the inter-district permit list for the 2012-13 school year.

“I came at 2 p.m. on Saturday and I was No. 18 in line,” Jennifer Genske, an Altadena resident applying for the youngest of her four children, said after filing her paperwork Monday morning. “The first person came at 6 a.m. Saturday, which is earlier than they did last year.”

A No. 2 state-wide ranking and an academic performance index score of 942 means that La Cañada Unified has long attracted education-focused families who buy homes in the area primarily for the schools.

But plenty of non-resident families also want in, and the loosening of state guidelines on inter-district permits, combined with La Cañada Unified’s need to stem declining resident enrollment, is intensifying the interest in and the competitiveness of the inter-district application process.

District officials opened their doors shortly before 6 a.m. Monday, and 90 minutes later they had already received more than 100 applications.

“I am not too surprised at the interest from families outside the district in our schools, based on the success of our students on standardized tests and the success in matriculating to college, coupled with the incredible array of extra curricular activities,” school board President Scott Tracy said. “It is a pretty strong program.”

Priority for inter-district student enrollment is given to the children of district employees, followed by those who already have siblings in the system and then to those whose parents work within district boundaries.

This year, a little more than 13% of La Cañada Unified’s 4,073 students — just shy of the current 15% cap — live outside district boundaries. District officials plan to accept about 40 permitted students for the 2012-13 school year.

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-- Megan O'Neil, Times Community News

Twitter: @megankoneil

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