Sixty-three children living in the Ravenswood school district are on a waiting list to transfer out of that district under the Tinsley desegregation program, the highest number since the program began a decade ago.
The result of a 1985 court settlement, the Tinsley voluntary transfer program now accommodates some 600 Ravenswood children in other Peninsula school districts, including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, Woodside, Portola Valley, Belmont and San Carlos.
Transfers are available only to kindergartners and first graders. Those on the current waiting list who will be entering second grade in the fall won't be eligible to transfer after June 30.
The Tinsley lawsuit was filed against education officials in 1976 by a group of 35 plaintiffs, mostly East Palo Alto parents. The case got its name from the first named plaintiff, Margaret Tinsley. The parents argued that students in the predominantly minority Ravenswood City School District should be able to transfer if they wished to the surrounding predominantly white school districts.
Under the 1985 settlement, East Palo Alto parents have the opportunity to apply for transfers for their children into most Peninsula school districts from San Carlos to Palo Alto.
By September of this year, the Palo Alto Unified School District will have a projected total of 434 students who have transferred under the Tinsley program, with 63 new students coming in September.
Menlo Park City School District will have a projected total of 142 students, with 27 coming in September, and neighboring Las Lomitas a total of 77 Tinsley transfer students, with 14 coming in this fall.
Each district has a maximum number of students it can accept. Redwood City was originally part of the order, but now it has reached a high enough minority ratio that it no longer has to enroll students under the Tinsley settlement.
Parents rank their preferences as to districts they wish their children to attend, and childrens' names are randomly selected by computer and placed. Notwithstanding the current waiting list of 63, there are still 26 open spaces in the Belmont and San Carlos districts if parents want to place their children there.
Otherwise, Peter Burchyns, who administers the Tinsley program for the San Mateo County Office of Education, doesn't hold out much hope for the 63 who are on the waiting list.
"If you're number 50, you're not going to get in," he said.
Tinsley applications are accepted each year beginning on Sept. 15 and the selection process begins on Nov. 15. The court settlement dictates the maximum number of students each district can accept.
Each district is allowed to go over its cap only if kindergarten or first grade students have dropped out during the previous school year. For example, Palo Alto had three students drop out this year, so it is allowed to accept 63 children, three more than its court-ordered cap. Las Lomitas will accept two more, and Menlo Park will take three more.
If students drop out after school starts in September, those spaces are held, according to court-mandated provisions, until the following year rather than filled up during the current school year.
The county office sent a letter to all of the parents with children on the waiting list, offering admission into either the San Carlos or Belmont elementary school districts, which still have some spaces left. "What surprised me," Burchyns said, was that "only two people have made that choice. I would have predicted that Belmont would fill up." He speculated that one reason so few parents chose that option is because of the distance between those cities and East Palo Alto.1
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