Nine years ago, Nalini Lasiewicz and her family moved to the westernmost part of La Cañada Flintridge, commonly known as the Sagebrush area. She soon discovered that her area was isolated because students there do not attend La Cañada schools.
“Our little neighborhood was not represented,” she said.
Students who live in the Sagebrush area have attended Glendale schools since before the Glendale Unified School District was formed in 1936. But residents of the area have fought hard in recent decades to be included within La Cañada Unified's boundaries. And now a fourth attempt, initiated by residents, to allow all La Cañada students to attend schools in the LCUSD is underway.
On Tuesday night, Lasiewicz, along with about 30 of her neighbors, listened as City Council and school board members discussed the history of the battle between the school districts and provided an update on current efforts. The meeting was informal and meant to offer residents who are part of the newly formed group UniteLCF! facts about a possible school district transfer.
The city and school board have both passed resolutions in support of expanding school district boundaries to include the sliver of La Cañada that feeds into Glendale schools. Around 400 students live in the affected neighborhoods, comprising an estimated 1.5% of Glendale Unified's total enrollment.
La Cañada Unified has in recent years accepted about 600 students who live outside the district, including many children of parents who are employed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is unclear how many of those are from the Sagebrush area.
The last fight to expand the school district took place in the 1990s. Glendale Unified appealed a petition for the territory transfer, winning approval from the California State Board of Education.
Despite previous attempts, residents and officials say the issue will not go away. City and school officials have been in talks with Glendale Unified and hope to reach an agreement. Such an agreement could include a transition period for affected students.
La Cañada school board members Scott Tracy and Joel Peterson are studying the transfer process and how it would impact their district. Tracy noted that the '90s effort was “nasty and contentious,” something he said that he and other officials would like to avoid this time around.
La Cañada officials would rather come to a mutual agreement with Glendale officials before initiating a formal process again, he added.
Councilman Don Voss, who with Councilman Jon Curtis has formed a study group to examine the territory transfer's impact on the city, noted during the meeting that the city and La Cañada Unified have a joint-use agreement under which school property is available to residents.
“It's an example of how the synergy between the school district and the city is so powerful and strong and we don't quite have that same kind of oomph in the western part of town,” said Voss. “It's something we'd like to expand, it's something we'd like to draw in.”
Lasiewicz and other residents hope that their area of the city can be a part of that connection, even if they no longer have children who attend schools in Glendale. Her own son graduated from Crescenta Valley High School a couple of years ago. Yet he attended the La Cañada High School senior prom, she said.
“People from the '90s said it wasn't possible,” she said. “I'm here to give it my support. This is not going to go away.”