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Disputed School Boundary Plan Dropped : Education: Proposal would have moved poor Latino students to a new campus in an upscale, mostly white neighborhood.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A controversial school boundary plan that would have sent elementary students from a poor Latino neighborhood to a new school in an upscale development has been scrapped after protests from parents in the development.

Many residents of Stevenson Ranch, where the new school is being built, applauded as the Newhall School District board made the announcement during its Tuesday night meeting. The district is instead considering proposals that would result in enrollment at the new school being predominantly white.

Not all residents of the housing development celebrated the ruling that eliminated the proposal to bring in students from the mostly Latino, east Newhall area.

“I really do smell vestiges of classism and racism in Stevenson Ranch,” said resident Linda Flammer-Kassel following the meeting. “But not all of us feel that way.”

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Richard Rioux, president of the Stevenson Ranch Town Council, said some residents of the development opposed the plan that would have included the Latino students from east Newhall because of racist concerns. He criticized this as shortsighted.

“The white people in the Santa Clarita Valley better realize very quickly they are going to be a minority by the year 2010,” Rioux said.

But Rioux joined those who supported the alternative plans that would instead bring students from either the nearby Valencia Summit or Lakeshore/Fairways neighborhoods to the new school.

He echoed the sentiments of several Stevenson Ranch residents who argued at an earlier meeting that parents in east Newhall do not get heavily involved in school activities. “I think the general view is they want people from the Summit to come there,” Rioux said, “because they are very active parents who have traditionally done a lot.”

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Board President Gonzalo Freixes also supported the proposals that excluded children from east Newhall. He said the distance between east Newhall and Stevenson Ranch--about five miles--made it an impractical choice. He argued that many families in east Newhall could not drive to the school for emergencies and after-school activities.

“It just makes no sense to move families from that great a distance, especially when many families there will not be able to provide transportation on their own,” he said.

One Latino man who lives in Stevenson Ranch said he supports the board’s decision, but not because of the parental or distance issues. The man, who asked that his name not be printed, said he believes Latino students might not be comfortable at the new, mostly white school.

“I see how hard it is for them to get into a new environment,” he said.

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A reworking of elementary school boundaries is necessary because the new school, scheduled to open in the fall, needs an additional 200 students to make its operation viable, officials said.

Under the rejected plan, enrollment at the new school would have been nearly half nonwhite. Under the two remaining plans the board is considering, minority enrollment will be 16% to 21%.


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