Decision Delayed on Suit Over Disney Resort : Negotiations: Anaheim City School District may challenge the environmental analysis for the project.


As negotiations continued throughout Sunday, the Anaheim City School District delayed deciding whether to file a lawsuit today against the city and Walt Disney Co. over the proposed Disneyland Resort, school officials said Sunday.

After a special closed-door meeting of school trustees, board members said they were encouraged by developments in negotiations during the weekend but are keeping open the option to sue.

"We need to do what's best for the children," said board member Jeanne Blackwell, as she left the 90-minute meeting that ended about 11:30 a.m. Protecting the student's rights may mean the district will have to file suit today in Orange County Superior Court to maintain their legal right to challenge the environmental analysis for the proposed $3-billion resort.

However, Blackwell said school officials "are willing to do whatever it takes to resolve this."

District officials said they are not opposed to Disney's venture, but they believe the project's impacts on the schools were not fully considered.

Neither city nor Disney officials could be reached to comment on the talks.

Because the time period for filing a challenge to the environmental analysis ran out on Saturday, a day when courts are closed, it was extended until Monday, attorneys said.

The resort, which would create about 28,000 jobs, would cause thousands of families to relocate to the area and enroll their children in local schools, school attorneys maintain. An increase in enrollment would further overcrowd schools and cause an $80-million burden on the district.

To offset that impact, district officials have asked that the city and Disney provide about $15 million to build a new elementary school. Disney, however, contends that state law requires it to pay just $2.2 million in development fees because of the impacts to local schools. Anaheim City School District would receive $1.1 million, while the other half would go to Anaheim Union High School District.

The Anaheim city district is the county's largest elementary school district with 21 schools and 16,300 students. The district is also the only one in the county that still presents a legal threat to the project. Other school districts, including Garden Grove Unified, Centralia and Anaheim Union, decided against such action last week. Instead, those districts have agreed to work with the city and Disney, which has promised to see if they can reach a compromise that would have Disney providing educational and job programs.

On Sunday, board members for Anaheim City School District said they had been excluded from negotiations among the city, Disney and the other school districts that have occurred during the past couple months.

It wasn't until last week that Anaheim City Schools became involved in discussions with the city and Disney, district officials said. Board members said they have no idea why they weren't asked to participate in earlier talks.

School board member Lou Lopez said that negotiations would continue all day Sunday and part of today to see if a resolution can be reached and the lawsuit averted.

He said that "tremendous progress has been made in the last 24 hours. . . . We've been going around the clock."

Even if a lawsuit is filed today, district officials hope to resolve the dispute without a trial.

Because of the continuing negotiations, board members said they may have to meet again today to determine if sufficient progress has been made and a suit isn't necessary.

"We have to wait and see," Lopez said.

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