More than 80 artistic teens from the Bay Area and beyond commute each day to San Francisco’s renowned Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.
These teenage out-of-town actors, musicians, painters, writers and dancers want a high-quality arts education and SOTA, as it’s commonly known, offers one for free.
But such artistic outsiders could be banned under a proposal before the San Francisco school board, which would restrict enrollment at the elite public school to city residents only.
Currently, 84 students from Palo Alto, Pacifica, Castro Valley, Fremont and as far away as Long Beach and Eureka are enrolled in the school, along with 540 San Francisco teens, each admitted following a rigorous audition process.
These interdistrict transfer students make up nearly 14 percent of the school’s enrollment — surpassing the 10 percent cap on nonresidents set years ago by the school board.
But depending on the year, transfer students have comprised a larger percentage of the student body, according to district officials.
And that’s a problem, said Rachel Norton, a school board member.
“It is a San Francisco public school,” Norton said. “It’s an amazing resource for kids who are interested in and are considering art as a career.”
SOTA is the only San Francisco high-demand public school that accepts out-of-district transfer students. Lowell High School, where admission is based on academic ability, does not allow high achievers from other districts to attend.
Typically, only city schools with open seats accept out-of-district transfers.
The district initially allowed SOTA to accept students from outside the district to fill missing pieces in ensembles — male dancers, for example, and players of less-popular musical instruments like the bassoon.
But now transfer students are found scattered among all the art forms, including creative writing and theater production, where there are arguably qualified candidates within the city limits.