SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Some Students to Get to Pick Their Schools

About a third of the 7,500 high school students in the Capistrano Unified School District will have a limited choice in picking the campus they want to attend next year under boundary lines adopted Monday by the Board of Trustees.

The 6-1 vote to open up choices for the students capped months of emotional debate involving proposed attendance boundary lines to accommodate the opening in the fall of Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo, the fourth in the district.

The choices--supported by many parents at the meeting--are part of a broader plan to eventually bring an open enrollment policy to all district schools by the end of the decade, officials said.

Board President Marlene Draper said she believes that the plan is a good first step toward eventually offering enrollment choices to all 30,000 students in the district.

Trustee Peter J. Espinosa voted against the boundary plan. He said he was worried that the changes might draw too many San Juan Capistrano students from San Clemente High School, which is under capacity by about 200.

Under the new boundaries--prepared by Supt. James A. Fleming--there will be three zones in which students will be able to choose between two high schools:

* About 315 students in grades nine through 12 who live near the Ortega Highway and San Juan Creek Road areas in San Juan Capistrano can remain at San Clemente High School or choose Dana Hills High School, which is somewhat closer.

* About 418 students in grades nine through 11 in Laguna Niguel who live between Crown Valley Parkway and Marina Hills Drive can stay at Dana Hills High School or attend the new school.

* About 589 students in grades nine through 11 in Mission Viejo north of Alicia Parkway and in Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza and Dove Canyon can stay at Capistrano Valley High School or attend the new school.

In addition, all other students living within the boundaries of Capistrano Valley High School will also have the option of attending the new high school, a move designed to ease overcrowding at that school, Fleming said.

The options are not expected to affect a district goal "to maintain ethnic balance at each of the high schools, which comes as close as possible to the demographics of the district as a whole," Fleming said.

Parent-paid busing will still be provided in the dual-enrollment zones as long as a minimum of 40 students request such transportation to one school or the other, Fleming said.

And as earlier proposed, all 11th-grade students affected by a boundary change will be able to stay where they are for their senior year, and younger siblings affected by a boundary change can stay at the high school attended by an older sibling.

Under the action, Marina Hills Drive will mark the boundary line between the new high school and Dana Hills High School. All incoming ninth- and 10th-graders living in Aliso Viejo and northern and central Laguna Niguel will attend the new school, which will open with at least 1,132 students in grades nine through 11 during the first year.

Earlier in the meeting, trustees adopted new attendance boundaries for the opening of Aliso Viejo Middle School.

Crown Valley Parkway, from Interstate 5 to Pacific Coast Highway, will serve as the boundary between Niguel Hills Middle School and the new school, which will open with about 750 students in grades six through eight. Except for about 250 students, all students living north of Crown Valley Parkway will attend the new school.

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