Madison School Parents Take Fight to State Court

Times Staff Writer

Parents and students from Madison Elementary School have taken their fight to keep the school open to the state Court of Appeal.

Westside Legal Services filed the appeal July 9 after the Los Angeles County Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit brought on behalf of 12 students and seven parents, said Merced Martin, the attorney representing the group for the legal foundation.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education, citing declining enrollment and money shortages, voted in February to close Madison, at 1018 Arizona Ave., and transfer its students to other schools this fall. The board refused to reconsider its decision in March, despite a noisy protest at board headquarters by about 100 children and parents from Madison.

The Sage Institute of Westlake recommended Madison's closure last year to combat declining enrollment, to make better use of district facilities and to improve ethnic balance. Since the 1980-81 school year, Madison's enrollment dropped from 419 to 288.

"Nobody likes to close a school," said Richard Fisher, an attorney representing the board of education. "The board did that only after extensive deliberations."

The parent-student group filed suit in May, contending that the school district violated the state Environmental Quality Act by failing to order an environmental study to determine how development of the school site would affect the neighborhood, Martin said. The suit also argued that the district violated the state education code requirement that communities have the chance to comment on pending school closures, he said.

Those arguments failed to convince Superior Court Judge Irving A. Shimer, who denied the group's petition June 28, Martin said.

Fisher said the school district was not required to order an environmental study because school sites are exempt from that state regulation. He said the school district also showed there was ample community participation and public debate before the board voted to close Madison.

Martin said he expects a ruling from the Court of Appeal before the start of the 1985-86 school year.

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