Switching Lowell High School back to merit-based admissions won’t be easy. Here’s why

A day after the San Francisco school board voted to restore merit-based admissions to Lowell High School, district officials scrambled to figure out the logistics of the transition, which will require significant overtime, extra staffing and a big effort to put the old paper application on-line.

It could also mean battling a legal challenge over competitive admissions at the academically elite school.

After a nearly two-year battle, supporters of the merit-based admissions process celebrated Thursday, while opponents vowed to continue the fight to ensure entrance to Lowell remains a lottery-based process, as has been the case for the last two admission cycles. The school has become more diverse under the lottery.

“We’re considering all of our options,” said the Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP. “We’re not going to roll over and play dead. We’re going to fight this.”

Whether Lowell’s merit-based admission process using on grades and test scores is legal under California law has long been debated but never challenged in court. State education code prohibits the use of academic merit in admissions at comprehensive high schools, but some legal experts say the law doesn’t not apply to Lowell for a range of reasons.

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