The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education has approved extending — with modifications — a moratorium on admitting interdistrict permit students.

Interdistrict permits allow students who are not residents of Santa Monica or Malibu to be enrolled in district schools.

The board of education agreed Thursday, February 17th, to extend the moratorium through the 2005-2006 school year and modify the policy to admit 100 permit students in elementary grades if classroom space is available.

“It is recommended that the board maintain the moratorium, but modify it to allow the district to accept no more than 100 students on interdistrict permits in kindergarten through fourth grades,” said John Deasy, district superintendent.

The board of education first approved a moratorium on admitting permit students in August 2002 to reduce class size.

“We have taken into consideration the total size of the learning community,” Deasy said. “Permits do not guarantee placement at a particular school.

“They guarantee placement in the district so there is equitable distribution.”

Admitting 100 permit students is the district response to a projected drop in enrollment for the upcoming school year and loss of state funding.

California funds individual school districts based on average daily attendance, which is the number of students in school each day divided by the number of days school is in session.

An enrollment drop of one student results in thousands of dollars of lost state funding.

Permit students are figured into the state’s average daily attendance funding calculations.

The district is projecting to enroll 12,340 students for the upcoming school year.

The enrollment projection is a decline of 221 students from the current school year, in which 12,561 students are enrolled.

“We are not opening the moratorium up to where anybody from another school district can apply for a permit for the first time,” said Laurel Schmidt, district director of pupil services.

“Except now, we can take more siblings of current permit students at more grade levels,” she said.

Schmidt is referring to siblings of current permit students who were put on a waiting list that started three years ago because they applied for kindergarten admission when space was not available.

Those siblings could now receive permits if classroom space is available in elementary school grades.

Before the moratorium, students typically received permits if they:

n previously resided and attended schools in the district, but then involuntarily lost their housing;

n needed to utilize district gifted or special education programs;

n had a parent or parents who worked for the district;

n had a parent or parents who were city employees of Santa Monica or Malibu; or

n had siblings who attended district schools on permit.

With modifications to the moratorium, requests for permits will be granted in a specific order.

Among the 100 permits for elementary grades, children of district employees will be granted permits first, followed by siblings of current permit students.

If classroom space is available, children of employees of the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu and of Santa Monica College will then be granted permits.

Students who receive a permit can stay in the district until they graduate from high school.

The district will also grant permits to siblings of current permit students for sixth and ninth grade if classroom space is available.

The 100-permit limit is only for elementary grades.

If classroom space is available in sixth and ninth grade, then a little more than 100 permit students could be admitted into the district, Deasy said.

“The middle schools and high schools have been determining on a case by case basis if classroom space is available,” Schmidt said.

“Last year and the year before, there were some siblings admitted to Santa Monica High School,” she said.

Deasy said some classroom space may be available in sixth grade, but the amount is not likely to be high, and permits are not likely to be granted for ninth grade.

Board member Jose Escarce said at a meeting in January that he has “misgivings” because “there is a perception that there are already too many permit students in the district.”

“Our goal is to add 100 new students who are on permits,” Escarce said last week.

“But if those students have older siblings, then there could be a multiplier effect,” he said of the possibility that the district may admit more than 100 permit students.

Deasy said only a few more than 100 students could be admitted if they are siblings of current permit students and classroom space is available.

Michael Matthews, district assistant superintendent, said the district would never grant an interdistrict permit if classroom space in any grade level was not available.