SF School Board votes to end merit-based admission at Lowell High, move school into lottery system

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
SF School Board votes to end merit-based admission at Lowell HS
San Francisco Board of Education has voted to end merit-based admission at Lowell High School and permanently move the high school to the lottery system immediately.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Tuesday night, San Francisco's Board of Education voted to end the merit-based admission at Lowell, a top academic high school.

The issue has been an emotional lightning rod within the district, Lowell's alumni community, residents of San Francisco, the Bay Area, and beyond. Because of the controversy and Lowell's status as a top ranked public school, it has made national news.

The vote followed hours of public comment and discussion via Zoom. The vote was five to two, in favor of changing Lowell's admission policy. Commissioners Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins, Matt Alexander, Faauuga Moliga, and Mark Sanchez voted in favor, along with two Lowell student delegates, Shavonne Hines-Foster and Kathya Correa Almanza, who helped write the resolution. Commissioners Kevine Boggess and Jenny Lam voted against the resolution.

RELATED: SF school board presents resolution to change merit admission at Lowell High

In October, because of the pandemic, the San Francisco school board proposed eliminating selective merit based admission at Lowell for one school year. But when racist incidents re-surfaced at the high school last month, the board quickly proposed a resolution to make the change permanent.

According to California's School Dashboard, about 50% of the students at Lowell are Asian, 18% are white, 12% are Latino, and 2% are African American.

But, there are ongoing questions and concerns about whether moving Lowell to the lottery system will end or address racism at the school.

VIDEO: Emotional public response to resolution to permanently end merit-based admission at Lowell High

At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, both supporters and critics of the resolution were emotional about the need to end racism at the school.

Commissioner Boggess, like many people during public comment wanted to delay the vote, but other board and community members felt the issue of equity and the safety of black students at the school has been delayed long enough.

"When people say lets slow it down, we've slowed it down for decades, it's time to act," said Commissioner Sanchez.

"I'm glad that we're not in school right now, because if we were, I'd be afraid for the students safety," said Virginia Marshall with San Francisco's Alliance of Black School Educators.

RELATED: SF to move forward with changing school names with 'ties to racism,' 'dishonorable legacies'

"Stop saying this is a rushed process, Black families in SFUSD have been fighting for injustices against their babies since before schools were integrated in San Francisco, and what you are witnessing now is our words finally moving into action," said Marisha Robinson, a SFUSD parent, and member of the African American Parent Advisory Council.

SFUSD Board Commissioner Jenny Lam was one of the two no votes. She acknowledged how difficult the discussions surrounding Lowell admissions have been for her personally as well as the community. "We need to fight racism, both the institutional racism that our Black students and families have faced, but also the anti Asian perspective that is present."

"There are more voices that want to be heard," said Commissioner Lam.