See Dick Go Back to School; See Jane Stay on Vacation
In these fading days of summer, the streets of Rancho Palos Verdes are filled with children playing baseball and riding bicycles. But Johnny can’t come out to play if he lives in the community of Eastview, because he and 765 children like him are in school.
Although the children live in Rancho Palos Verdes, they must go to class in the overcrowded Los Angeles Unified School District, which started last week on a year-round calendar.
Eastview parents say the new school schedule has further isolated them from the rest of their community, whose children attend the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, which is on a traditional calendar.
“This certainly drives a bigger wedge between us and the rest of the community because we are on different schedules,” said Eastview parent Karie Tapie, whose two children started class at Taper Avenue Elementary in the Los Angeles district last week. “We’ve always wanted to be a complete part of our city and this really puts a wall up, even more than it has in the past.”
In 1983, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes annexed the Eastview community but not its schools. Ever since, Eastview parents have wanted to join the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District.
But the Los Angeles Unified School District has fought the proposal, saying it would spoil the racial balance of the area’s schools, subject the district to civil rights lawsuits and disrupt programs for hundreds of other students.
A total of 766 Eastview children attend six schools in the Los Angeles district. More than half of those children are enrolled at Crestwood Street Elementary and Rudecinda S. Dodson Junior High, the two schools that stand to suffer the most if Eastview secedes, district officials say.
About 60% of the children enrolled at Crestwood and Dodson are minorities. The vast majority of the 480 Eastview students who attend those schools are Anglo. Without the Eastview children, the minority population at those campuses would rise to 74%, district officials say.
Eastview parents argue that the number of Anglo children the schools would lose is marginal compared to the total number of Anglo students enrolled throughout the district. Their secession movement gained momentum last month when it won the approval of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, which passes on local school annexations and secessions.
Los Angeles school officials have appealed the decision to the State Board of Education. If the board sides with Eastview parents, the issue goes to the voters.
Should the secession effort succeed, Crestwood and Dodson--located in Eastview and valued at $18 million--would become the property of the Palos Verdes district. The other four schools attended by Eastview children--Taper Avenue Elementary, Richard Henry Dana Junior High, Alexander Fleming Junior High and San Pedro High--would remain in the Los Angeles district’s hands.
Under state law, the Palos Verdes district would not be required to compensate Los Angeles for the two schools it would gain. Los Angeles officials say the loss of those schools would severely strain their district, which is already overcrowded and scraping for funds. Worst of all, the schools would end up in the possession of a district that has been forced to close campuses in recent years because of declining enrollment.
“To secede over (these few) students disrupts the programs that are going on here,” said Barry Lanning, social studies department chairman at Dodson Junior High. “It doesn’t seem right.”
But Eastview parents say both sides could work out a solution to the dilemma. Because Palos Verdes does not need the sites, it could agree to lease the schools back to Los Angeles at a nominal price, allowing teachers and administrators at Dodson and Crestwood to keep their jobs.
Whereas the start of year-round schooling in the Los Angeles district has strengthened the resolve of some Eastview parents to leave the district, others say their enthusiasm for secession is beginning to cool. Now that nearby Miraleste High School has been closed, many Eastview parents are having second thoughts about sending their teen-agers to Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, a 30-minute drive from their community.
“I’m on the fence,” said Eastview resident Lucie Thorsen, a substitute teacher at Crestwood Elementary, where her children also attend. “If you were to ask me a couple years ago, I would have said ‘Yes, yes, of course I want to join the Palos Verdes district.’ But they have so many problems right now with money and closing schools that I don’t know if we’re going to be jumping from the frying pan to the fire.”