Teachers Face Moves Due to Enrollment Fall

Joan Bergenty, a third- and fourth-grade teacher for eight years at Andasol Avenue Elementary School, is on the transfer list.

And so are a lot of other teachers, if student enrollment at several San Fernando Valley schools does not increase by Oct. 14. That is the date the Los Angeles Unified School District will notify teachers at schools with declining enrollment of their transfers to more crowded schools in the inner city.

As at Andasol, enrollment at many Valley schools, especially those in earthquake-ravaged areas, is down substantially--a result of 14,000 to 17,000 apartment units having been damaged or destroyed in the quake. Many families have moved temporarily away from their neighborhoods and have not returned, school officials said.

Schools receive money for each student they enroll; if there are not enough students, teachers are transferred to schools that have too many students, or they are placed in a substitute teaching pool, school officials said.

Parents of students in West Valley schools are arguing that although enrollment may be low now, as apartments are repaired and reopened, the families will move back and enroll their children at schools that will then be understaffed.

"They are coming back," Bergenty said. "And my job is on the line."

A representative of Andasol's PTA, Beverly Cordova, set up a table in front of the elementary school Tuesday afternoon to alert fellow parents to the possible loss of teachers.

"The kids have gone through enough already," Cordova said, explaining that since the January quake, children have been shuffled around from house to house and have experienced a general sense of instability.

Cordova, the mother of three Andasol students, said that if the teachers leave, the elementary school students will be displaced once again as they are dispersed to different classes that have already been in session for a month.

Cordova, who also manages an apartment complex undergoing quake repairs, said she surveyed 17 other area apartment buildings, accounting for more than 1,000 living units, and found that all of them are scheduled to reopen before the end of this school year.

"There were seven children at my place alone," Cordova said. She added that larger buildings had as many as 100 children of elementary school age living in them.

On Monday, the school board voted to set aside $1 million that may go toward paying the salaries of teachers who would otherwise be transferred out.

School district spokesman Bill Rivera said the district may also apply for federal disaster aid funds to cover teachers' salaries, if schools can prove that there is a direct link between earthquake displacement and low enrollment.

The Los Angeles district has already received $100 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for quake-related projects.

Currently, parent activists like Cordova are gathering data about which students did not return, finding out if they lived in the damaged apartments and figuring out if they will come back.

Board members will vote on whether the teachers will be kept at schools after the enrollment figures are compiled on Oct. 14, Rivera said. However, Julie Korenstein, who represents many of the affected schools, is trying to delay the vote so that schools have more time to determine whether more students come back.

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