School supporters pushing district to expand enrollment

Benson Polytechnic High School may soon be able to enroll more students, after three years of a district-imposed 800-student enrollment cap.

Superintendent Carole Smith on Monday announced that she’s been developing options for adjusting the enrollment cap at Benson and will recommend a plan in January on how much to expand the cap.

Smith says she wants to increase access to the school’s career-technical education programs districtwide, while at the same time “support the goals of high school system redesign that are working to bring enrollment health and equity to the entire system,” Smith told the school board during her report to the board Monday night.

“As part of our report on high school system design,” Smith added, “we said we would look at geographic enrollment adjustments in year three, which we are in. And we know that there is strong community demand to increase access to Benson’s programs.”

The cap was imposed three years ago as the district adopted a new high school framework. The goal was to bring the high school sizes into balance, which mostly meant allowing the capacity at the under-enrolled schools — Jefferson, Madison and Roosevelt — to grow. Many students from those schools have historically transferred into Benson, one of the district’s highest performing schools.

With the cap on Benson, students who want to transfer there have faced a growing waiting list every year. Last year, 190 students were on the waiting list.

That’s caused frustration among some board members, business and community members, Benson alumni and supporters and PPS watchdogs. They’ve rallied against the cap during the past three years.

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