Newport-Mesa considers 2 options for redrawing school trustee areas

And then there were two.

After months of discussion and several public meetings, Newport-Mesa Unified School District board members Wednesday approved two draft options for redrawing the district’s trustee area boundaries and voted to schedule at least three additional public meetings to vet the alternatives further.

The goal, officials have said, is to better balance the population in Newport-Mesa’s seven trustee areas, which haven’t changed since the school district formed 50 years ago.

A board report last year indicated that some areas have as many as 46,000 residents while others have around 16,000.

In the two draft maps under consideration — Options B and G — the population of each trustee area would range between 26,000 and 29,000.

Realigning trustee areas would not affect school attendance boundaries, according to district officials.

Each Newport-Mesa board member lives in a different trustee area. However, members have historically been elected by voters throughout the school district.

That election method came under fire last year after Costa Mesa resident Eloisa Rangel filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court alleging that it violated the California Voting Rights Act by preventing Latino residents from electing candidates of their choice.

As part of a settlement approved in March, the district’s election system will change so board members are instead chosen by voters in the areas they live in.

The new system is expected to be in place for the November 2018 election.

To aid in the effort, the district retained DecisionInsite, an Irvine-based demographic consultant, and convened a committee to review the proposed zone adjustments.

The seven-member committee preferred Option B. Map G was created after two public meetings the district held in March at Rea Elementary School and Corona del Mar High School.

Both maps carve out one voting district covering Westside Costa Mesa in which a majority of residents are Latino.

On Wednesday, Newport-Mesa board members voted 6-1 to hold at least three public hearings to collect comments about the maps.

“If we need more, that’s fine, but at minimum we should have three,” said trustee Martha Fluor.

Board member Charlene Metoyer voted against the motion, saying she would prefer the district hold four additional meetings, including more at Corona del Mar and Rea.

“I feel that we are presenting something new to them and they have the right to give us their input,” she said.

The district anticipates starting the public meetings after school begins in September, according to spokeswoman Annette Franco.

After those meetings, the board can vote on a final map, she said.

Suicide prevention policy finalized

Also on Wednesday, board members voted unanimously to finalize a new policy directing staff to implement a districtwide suicide prevention program for students.

Under the policy, all staff members who have contact with students — including administrative staff, teachers, cafeteria workers and custodians — will be taught how to identify youths who may be at risk of suicide and how to respond.

Students also will receive training in their classes to emphasize healthy choices and good decision making.

The policy follows passage of a state law last year that required school boards to adopt policies on suicide prevention.

luke.money@latimes.com

Twitter @LukeMMoney

The map captions in the original version of this article incorrectly labeled the options. The current captions are correct.

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