Norwalk : Middle School Decision Due

After more than a decade without middle or junior high schools and eight months of controversy, the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Board of Education is scheduled to vote next week on reopening the schools.

"This is a very emotional issue. We stand ready to make a decision," board President Jesse M. Luera said this week. "It is time to vote one way or another. We have been talking for eight months," Luera said near the end of a four-hour marathon study session.

More than 200 people attended last Monday's meeting at Norwalk City Hall when the district staff explained six possible plans of converting back to middle schools. The junior highs were closed because of declining enrollment.

All of the plans would cost the district money, some more than others. Most call for selling some property, while some advocate using lottery receipts or asking voters to consider passing a parcel tax to raise the needed funds. Some of the plans require closing a couple of elementary schools while converting others to junior highs.

The most expensive plan would cost an estimated $5.1 million and includes selling a number of schools not in use and placing an $83.73 yearly tax on property owners. The least expensive would cost $397,500 and involve the selling of unused property and the use of lottery money.

The board will vote on the matter during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. The meeting has been moved to the La Mirada Civic Theatre to accommodate an expected large crowd.

The 18,000-student district currently has 20 kindergarten-through-7th-grade elementary schools and three high schools with grades 8 through 12 and one continuation high school.

A group of parents complained more than eight months ago that eighth-graders are not emotionally mature enough to be grouped with older high school students. They also voiced concerns that the 7th-grade curriculum does not offer enough extracurricular activities to students.

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