The enrollment imbalance between East and Highland high schools has grown to its highest level yet - 505 students.
The latest count, taken Dec. 3 by the district's special analysis committee, puts the two schools out of balance by 305 students.When the high school boundaries were redrawn with the closing of South High School, the boundary commission said that the enrollment balance between the high schools should be as close as possible, with a difference of no more than 200 students between schools.
The issue will again be on Tuesday night's agenda of the Salt Lake Board of Education. The issue surfaced at the board's Dec. 18 meeting but was tabled until tonight.
The board is expected to consider a proposal, by Superintendent John W. Bennion, that aims to partially correct the imbalance. His proposal would allow students more time before deciding about transfers from Highland to East. (The district does not have open enrollment between high schools. Up to 100 Highland students or incoming ninth-graders can request a transfer to East.)
Bennion's proposal would also make some administrative changes on how special transfers are handled and would let students interested in East's business program, the Academy of Finance, to attend East for four years, not just the two years of the academy.
The analysis committee was appointed after East parents complained last year that their school's smaller enrollment would lead to loss of teachers and program erosion.
The committee report, which has been given to the board, states that the disparity doesn't hang on one reason but several.
The largest single reason for the difference is that Highland has 246 more high school students living within its boundaries.
However, board member Alan Mecham, who served on the analysis committee, said that number isn't exact because the district doesn't have an accurate count on the number of students living within the East and Highland boundaries who attend private schools or out-of-district schools.
The remaining 259-student difference comes from several factors. Among them are:
- Centralization of the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Highland. Highland has 46 ESL students who reside within the East boundaries and 45 ESL students who reside within West boundaries. The result is 91 more students for Highland and 46 fewer for East.
"Thus," the report says, "Highland has 137 more students than East as a result of the centralized East ESL program at Highland."
- Transfer students. There are 129 students, in addition to ESL students, enrolled at Highland who reside within the East boundaries and 73 students enrolled at East who reside within Highland boundaries. These students include special transfers, those who were exempted from the new boundaries and other attending a different school for an unknown reason.
- Out-of-district students. Highland has 120 out-of-district students, while East has 52 students enrolled at that school but live outside the district. Highland has 68 more out-of-district students.
- Students at the alternative school. East has 7 more students than Highland at the district's alternative school, Salt Lake Community High School. East has 167; Highland has 160.
- Students at West High. East has 14 more students than Highland enrolled at the International Baccalaureate program offered at West High.