Santa Ana to Lose School It Leases From Tustin District

Times Staff Writer

The already overcrowded Santa Ana school district is losing its lease on one of three fundamental schools.

The district has rented the John Muir Fundamental School for the past three years from the Tustin Unified School District, which had a declining school population. But next September, Tustin Unified wants the building at 1362 Mitchell Ave. for Tustin students.

Tustin Unified is beginning to show growth again in the elementary grades, and the building--which as a Tustin school is known as Benjamin Beswick School--will be needed again, district officials said.

Santa Ana Unified School District now is searching for a new home for the 398 pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade who attend John Muir Fundamental.

"It's part of our problem of being overcrowded," said Diane Thomas, public information officer for Santa Ana Unified.

Alternatives being considered, she said, include sending John Muir students to Greenville Fundamental School at 3600 S. Raitt St.

The Santa Ana school board, at its meeting Tuesday night, voted to add Greenville Fundamental to the list of five schools it is considering for year-round status next school year, she said. The others are Hoover, Jefferson, Remington and Washington elementary schools.

The board will make a final decison in early January, Thomas said.

A public hearing on the year-round proposal for all six schools will be held at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, in the auditorium of Carr Intermediate School, 2120 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana.

Thomas acknowledged that some parents at both Greenville and John Muir are unhappy with the proposed changes. "The John Muir parents want to keep the (Tustin) school," she said. And some parents at Greenville Fundamental, which already has a waiting list, don't like the idea of expanding into a year-round school.

A year-round school can have more students because classes are put on cycles, Thomas said.

Santa Ana's fundamental schools stress strict discipline and "back-to-basics" academics. They are open to all students in the district on a voluntary basis.

Critics of the fundamental schools have accused them of being "white-flight havens" for the school district's dwindling white student population. But supporters of the schools have noted that they are open to all students and that many Latino parents have opted to send their children to them.

Lawrence Sutherland, business manager for the Tustin Unified School District, said Wednesday that he expects the Tustin school board in the next 60 days will formally vote to reopen Beswick School in September.

"The other nearby Tustin schools are filled up, and all our signs indicate we'll need the school next year," he said.

Sutherland said Santa Ana Unified paid $40,000 annual rent for the building the first two years and is paying $44,000 this year. Rent was based on what the Tustin district could ordinarily get for leasing a vacant building to church schools and others who in the past have rented vacant schools, Sutherland said.

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