Parents Split on Plan for Boycott Over School's Close

Times Staff Writer

About 200 angry Huntington Beach parents protested Sunday, but they were divided on whether their children will boycott classes Wednesday to express their displeasure with the decision to close Burke Elementary School.

"We'd be extremely successful if we get 50%" of the school's 400 pupils to boycott classes, protest organizer Ed Zschoche said. Sentiment for the one-day boycott "is really mixed," he said.

At Sunday's rally in a park adjacent to the Burke campus, about 30 former teachers, whose teaching credentials are still valid, had volunteered to teach pupils in private homes for the one-day boycott. Zschoche said that by Sunday evening parents indicated that about 80 children would join the boycott.

But Brian Garland, president of the Huntington Beach City School District Board of Trustees, questioned the wisdom of parents' sending their children to private homes instead of school.

"I would hope that people who open up their homes to children from other families have adequate liability insurance . . . and conform to education codes for private schools," Garland said. "What happens if a child gets hurt at one of those homes? Who is liable?

Punitive Action Unlikely

"When we hire our teachers, we screen them very carefully. How do the parents know what the qualifications (of the volunteer teachers) are?"

Although the boycott would appear to violate California's compulsory education law, Garland said it is unlikely that any punitive action will be taken against parents whose children participate.

"I am just concerned for the children, mainly," he said. "Basically, it is a day out of the children's education."

Moreover, the financially troubled school district stands to lose $11 in state funding for each child who misses class, he said.

Some Parents Disagree

At Sunday's rally, some parents, such as Lee Adelman, who said he has one child at Burke School, expressed their reluctance to keep their children out of school.

"The people who really suffer are the kids," Adelman said. "And the message you send home (by boycotting) is wrong. You should teach them to fight within the system."

Although he disagreed with the boycott, Adelman said he staunchly supports keeping Burke School open.

Trustees voted unanimously last week to close Burke because of declining enrollment and the district's financial problems. But the parents at the protest Sunday complained that an advisory committee had recommended closing a different school and that the school board had not considered other alternatives, such as laying off administrators.

Garland said Sunday that the district has trimmed expenses "to the bare bone" and would save about $205,000 a year in operating expenses by closing Burke.

Parents who disputed the cost-cutting estimate said they will begin their own study of the school district's budget this week.

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