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3 Valley Schools Face Enrollment Lid, More Busing

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Monday to cap enrollment at an additional 34 year-round schools, including three in the San Fernando Valley, which will force about 2,000 youngsters to be bused to less-crowded campuses.

The school board’s action brings the number of district schools with enrollment caps to 85. The ceilings are scheduled to become effective in September.

Where such caps are enforced, enrollments are limited to 95% of a school’s capacity. Once that mark is reached, students are bused, primarily to West Valley and Westside campuses.

The 95% limit was established in 1986 by the board as a way of reducing the density of student bodies at year-round schools. The theory is that with fewer full-time students on crowded campuses, there will be space for remedial or enrichment classes for youngsters on vacation.

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Only youngsters new to a school can be assigned to another campus, officials said. This includes children in the first through sixth grades who have siblings in the school.

In the Valley, Camellia Avenue and Victory Boulevard elementary schools in North Hollywood and Pacoima Elementary School will be added to those schools with enrollment ceilings.

About 80 Valley students are among the estimated 2,000 in the district affected by Monday’s board decision. About 13,000 students already are bused because their neighborhood schools are too crowded.

The 34 new schools with enrollment caps were crowded when placed on 12-month operating schedules and have become even more crowded, the board was told. At some of the smaller schools, “there is a horrendous crowding of bungalow on top of bungalow,” board president Rita Walters said,

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The bungalows were added on many campuses so that more students could be housed, creating capacities “above the real capacity” of the schools, said board member Jackie Goldberg, whose Hollywood-Wilshire district is one of the most crowded in the city.

“When we increased the capacity of the school, we did not increase the capacity of the library, or the nurse’s office or increase the number of bathrooms,” she added.

But Leticia Quezada, who also has many crowded, year-round schools in her Eastside district, argued passionately against the proposal to cap enrollments at more schools. She said many parents have complained that their children must endure long bus rides. And there have been complaints that many Valley and Westside schools do not have good bilingual programs.

Quezada said she is unconvinced that enrollments at the schools will increase as drastically as district staff members have estimated. The staff anticipated that 14,000 new students would enroll this year, but only 2,000 did. Some staff members said the new federal immigration law may have had something to do with the miscalculation.

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“I am not sure that we’re not gambling with the numbers,” said Quezada. “I would err on the side of keeping the children at their home school. Too many individual students are falling through the cracks.”

Four board members voted in favor of extending the enrollment ceiling. Quezada and East Valley representative Roberta Weintraub voted against the measure, and West Valley representative Julie Korenstein abstained.


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