More than 170 would-be elementary and middle school students have been placed on the Mountain View Whisman School District's waiting list for the 2011-12 school year. While parents are complaining, district officials said that this year's waiting list is not all that unusual compared with past years.
In total, 173 incoming kindergartners, first-, second-, third-, sixth- and seventh-graders are on a waiting list. The vast majority of those students -- 159 -- are hoping for an intra-district transfer. The bulk of that group -- 52 -- are kindergarteners whose parents are vying for a spot in Stevenson, the district's PACT school.
Only 14 students have been put on a waiting list to get into their "neighborhood schools" -- the school the district assigns based upon a student's home address.
"I've been very proactive in trying to get things happening and I've actually just run out of steam," said Autumn Meisel, whose daughter starts kindergarten in the fall. Meisel has been pushing to get her daughter into Stevenson to no avail. "It's extraordinarily frustrating."
Superintendent Craig Goldman said that demand is especially high this year for the PACT -- or Parent, Child, Teacher -- program, he noted that there is almost always a longer waiting list for Stevenson, as well as for the district's dual language immersion program at Castro School.
"Overall, as a district our enrolment trends are within our projections," he said. According to Goldman, there are always some students on the waiting list for their neighborhood schools and the number on the intradistrict waiting list is always higher than that. "I think the fact that there is a wait list at Stevenson is validation that PACT is a strong, choice program."
Parents Marina Dergun and Meisel said they feel that the district has not done enough to meet the demand parents demonstrated for PACT this year.
Dergun's son, an incoming kindergartner, is 45th on the waiting list to get into Stevenson. "We are very disappointed," Dergun said, referring to what she perceived to be the district's unwillingness to accommodate parents' requests. Dergun said she feels that the district could have made room for many on the waiting list, if not all.
Neither Dergun nor Meisel want their children to go to their neighborhood school, Theuerkauf, and said they will send their kindergartners to private school.
"The truth is, we've decided to leave Mountain View," Meisel said. Her family can't afford to send their daughter to private schools for her entire academic career, so they are planning to move to another nearby city to get into a better public school. "It's a pity, but that's the reality for us," she said.
Goldman said that the district has done all it can to accommodate as many students it can in the PACT program. "The simple fact is there are not enough spaces at the school to accommodate the demand," he said.
In the coming years, Goldman said, Stevenson will continue to grow. Last year, the school served about 280 students and this year it will serve about 310, he said. The target is to reach eventually reach an enrollment of 360, he said.