With the addition of ninth grade to high schools adding space pressure to Lake Washington School District high schools, district officials have introduced new rules for "variances," requests from incoming high school students to attend a school outside their neighborhoods.
The district will review school capacities annually before the February open enrollment period. Priority will be given first to students who already have an older sibling attending the high school of their choice, and if there are more applications than space, a lottery will be held for the open spots.
Historically, the district's open enrollment policy has enabled all high school in-district variances, which allow students to attend a school other than their neighborhood school. Now, the district says the addition of ninth grade students to high schools has reduced the space available for students on variances.
About 1,200 middle school parents responded to a December survey that guided the district's new policy, citing sibling preference and split feeder preference as their priorities for allowing variances. (Split feeders are schools that send students on to more than one school, such as Evergreen Middle School, whose students go on to both Redmond and Eastlake High Schools.)
From the Lake Washington School District, here are the rules for the new process:
- During the open enrollment period (February 1-28), parents/students will go to their neighborhood high school to fill out and submit an in-district variance request form specifying the high school of their choice.
- If there are enough spaces to accommodate all requests for a specific high school, all requests will be granted.
- If there are not enough spaces to accommodate all requests, variances will be awarded first to students with concurrently enrolled siblings, i.e., a brother or sister who currently attends that high school and will be there for at least one more year. If there are more requests from students with concurrently enrolled siblings than space available, the school will hold a lottery among those applicants.
- For Redmond and Eastlake high schools only, the school will then give next priority to students from Evergreen Middle School, currently the only split feeder. If there are more such requests than space available, the school will hold a lottery among those applicants.
- If there is still space available for in-district variances after these two preferences, a lottery will determine acceptance of any remaining applicants.
- For variance requests that are not accepted following a lottery, those students will be placed on a wait list and notified should space become available.
Since high school registration occurs in February, students will register first at their home/neighborhood school. If their variance request is accepted, they will reregister with the school accepting their variance.