Oxnard Educators Brace for Criticism of Attendance Shifts

Times Staff Writer

Officials at the beleaguered Oxnard School District were bracing themselves Wednesday not for parents' perennial complaints about overcrowding but for criticism of a district plan to alleviate it.

About 100 parents were expected to attend a hearing Wednesday night to question a proposed change in school boundaries to make way for the anticipated opening of the Christa McAuliffe School in August, said district Supt. Norman R. Brekke.

"No matter what we do about overcrowding, there's going to be some complaints," he said. "It's difficult to draw up a solution that will be met with agreement by everyone."

The boundary change, proposed by the district's 60-member Integration Advisory Committee, is expected to uproot as many as 1,493 students in grades one through six from 12 of the district's 13 elementary schools.

Shuffled for Balance

Of those students, only 879 will actually be enrolled in the new school. The remaining 614 students have to be shuffled from one school to another to fill vacancies and maintain racial balance in the district, Brekke said.

Because McAuliffe is located on the west, or less racially integrated part of town, the school will pull students from the east, or more racially mixed part of town, district officials said. The resulting vacancies will, in turn, be filled with students from other schools.

"When you take out some students, you have to backfill," Brekke said.

In the hope of winning over parents, district officials were also asking the school board to approve two concessions that they said would not have been possible under a 1971 federal desegregation order that expired last March.

Instead of being bused to protect racial integration, kindergarten students would be able to attend neighborhood schools. And school transfers both within and outside the district will be granted on a limited basis in cases where new school assignments conflict with day-care arrangements.

McAuliffe School, on Offshore Street and Via Marina Avenue, has been planned for five years in the district that last year converted to a year-round schedule to cope with overcrowding.

Under the traditional September-through-June schedule, the district would face an enrollment of 1,400 students more than it is equipped to handle--roughly two school's worth of students--said Ardyce Driskill, assistant superintendent for business and fiscal services. As it is, district officials have said that the $5.5-million McAuliffe School will operate at capacity from the day it opens.

Large Turnout Expected

Neither of the district's two junior high schools or Lemonwood School, which is considered too far east to feed McAuliffe, will be affected by the boundary changes.

District officials anticipated a large turnout at Wednesday's hearing because earlier meetings at four schools that will be affected by the boundaries drew a total of more than 200 parents.

"I saw a lot of folded arms," said John Marshall, who as assistant superintendent of educational services conducted the meetings.

Among parents concerned about the proposed change is Carol Woodcock. Two of her daughters would be transferred from paired elementary schools--Juanita, a K-3, and Curren, a 4-6--to Driffill Elementary School.

In 1986, the Woodcocks bought a house four blocks from where they had been renting so that their daughters could continue attending the same schools with the same classmates.

The district already threw one wrench into those plans last year by switching to a year-round schedule, Woodcock said. Now she worries how her daughters will adjust under another change, especially 10-year-old Amy who the following year faces yet another school and another set of classmates in seventh grade.

"When the school switched to year-round, a lot of their friends went on another track," she explained. "If the lines are drawn again they're going to be uprooted again and placed with new students. They'll be the new kids on the block again."

On the other end of town, South Oxnard mother Daria Vazquez wondered who would baby-sit her three boys if they are transferred from Driffill to McAuliffe school as proposed.

Vazquez, a presser at a dry cleaners, would not be able to leave her job to drive them to their present sitter, who lives just one block from Driffill Elementary School, she said. She dreads looking for a replacement for the boys who since 1985 have had five different women care for them.

"It's hard to find a baby sitter," she said, "and it's hard on the children to change the baby sitter."

School officials expected district trustees Wednesday to make small changes or possibly postpone action on the boundary realignment. However, they predicted that a similar boundary change would eventually be adopted.

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