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School Districts Fear Secret Restructuring Plan : Antelope Valley: Elementary system officials worry about being forced into unification. The organizations alleged to be pushing the proposal deny any such effort.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A coalition of Antelope Valley elementary school districts Thursday accused county officials and the area’s high school district of secretly trying to promote a major restructuring of school districts in the area.

County and high school district officials denied any such effort. But representatives of six of the valley’s nine elementary school districts held a news conference to charge that the two groups have been collaborating to impose a new system of unified school districts.

“We feel that the process should be slowed down a little bit. It’s like a train taking off, but there’s no conductor,” said Larry Lake, vice president of the board of trustees of the Eastside Union School District.

Unlike Los Angeles--where elementary, junior high and high schools are all run by the same unified school district--the Antelope Valley has one 1,600-square-mile high school district and nine smaller districts that operate only elementary and middle schools.

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Officials of the Antelope Valley Union High School District and the County Committee on School District Organization, which considers district unification proposals, insisted that they are not promoting any restructuring plan. They said there must have been some misunderstanding.

The rumor “is absolutely untrue,” said Mary Lewis, chairwoman of the 11-member county committee. “We’re not pushing any plan, and we’re not going to present any plan. It’s up to them to decide what’s best for their students.”

The dispute erupted in advance of a hearing scheduled for Monday in Palmdale that the county committee is holding to discuss unification. High school officials last year began talking about restructuring their district and the nine elementary school districts into three or four unified districts with schools covering kindergarten through senior year of high school.

But high school board President Wilda Andrejcik said Thursday that her district is not advocating such a plan or trying to force it on the elementary school districts. “All we’re trying to do is some long-range planning. It’s not that we have any hidden agenda,” she said.

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Lewis said the only purpose of the meeting is to explore the possibility of unification. High school district officials said they requested the meeting to try to devise a cohesive plan for the future of Antelope Valley schools after some elementary school districts began talking of unification.

At least three elementary school districts--Palmdale, Wilsona and Soledad-Agua Dulce Union--have discussed individual unification plans under which they would secede from the high school district and operate their own high schools. But voters would have to approve any such changes.

The six districts expressing concerns Thursday were Lancaster, Eastside Union, Westside Union, Keppel Union, Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union and Palmdale. Palmdale joined the protest despite its own admitted plans for unification, which are probably several years away and which could be complicated by a regional plan, Palmdale district officials said.

The three elementary school districts not participating were Wilsona, Soledad-Agua Dulce Union and Gorman.

High school officials fear a piecemeal approach to unification could cripple their district. If Palmdale unified, for instance, the high school district would lose the many high school students living within Palmdale’s boundaries and the state funding that comes with them.


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