April 6, 2007

Barrio Logan parents simmered over new school boundaries

By Raymond R. Beltran

The school district’s Area 5 Superintendent Delfino Aleman was surrounded by a circle of acceptance rather than opposition Thursday, March 29, when he reintroduced a controversial attendance boundary system to elementary school parents in Barrio Logan. Parents who were originally irate about being forced to transfer their children to other campuses were simmered now that they have been offered more opportunities.

With the opening of the new K to 5th grade Laura Rodriguez Elementary School in Logan Heights comes new attendance boundaries, from four areas to five, so the new 35 classrooms won’t be empty come September when the school opens up.

“I’m not like an osterich with his head in the sand, thinking that everything’s going to be okay,” said Aleman, who oversees approximately 35 schools in San Diego. “We have a ways to go, but definitely having a new school is a step in the right direction.”

Three weeks ago, Aleman and the district’s planning director, Roy MacPhail, introduced new attendance boundaries that would have forced up to 44 percent of students from Perkins Elementary to be siphoned out into schools they live close to, including Laura Rodriguez.

Parents who currently send their children to schools out of their boundary were most impacted by the change and expressed outrage that they had a lack of choice in the matter.

The existing schools being affected are Kimbrough, Logan, Burbank and Perkins, a campus where students mostly travel out of their boundary to attend for the quality of education.

Aleman followed through in a recent statement saying he “heard parents loud and clear.” At the latest meeting, parents, mainly at Perkins, were given the choice to transfer or stay in their current classrooms.

The criteria for being allowed to stay is if students are already a year from graduating from their current schools, or in the fourth or fifth grade. If there are siblings attending the same school, one of whom is close to graduation, they can also stay on campus. Students also can stay at schools out of their boundary if they’re enrolled in the Choice Program.

“We trying to keep the families together,” says Planning Director MacPhail. “but we have tomake changes in the attendance boundaries so that students can attend the new school.”

Students who are in seminar and special ed are also exempt from the change. And of course, if exempt students in the Rodriguez boundary would like to attend the new school, officials say they are more than welcome.

With the newest boundary proposal, families impacted will be those with one child attending K to 3 grade in schools out of their boundaries.

At the recent meeting, approximately forty parents showed. MacPhail said about 400 letters were mailed home but were sent only to impacted families.

Perkins parents attended, prepared with picket signs reading, “Parents of Perkins don’t want lies. We want the truth. We don’t want injustice” But since many are now exempt under the new criteria, banners were kept at ground level and Aleman and MacPhail received more gratitude instead of the outrage expressed three weeks ago.

Previously, new boundaries were drawn, and like it or not, parents were going to have to transfer their children to other campuses en masse, especially from Perkins.

District officials say that the shuffling of students will remedy classroom overcrowded-ness. They were hoping to arrange campuses by the 100 students per one acre ratio, but now area superintendents will be proposing to extend grade levels at some campuses.

Aleman will propose adding a grade to Perkins to be a K- 6 school, Logan the same and Burbank, two more grades, to become a K-5 school. The board will review the changes next Tuesday, April 10.

Originally, he wanted to open Rodriguez with a 500 student population but will now have to settle for figures in the low 400s.

Some teachers, that preferred to remain nameless, stated the real issue, for them, isn’t transferring students to new campuses but with the inequality in education between the five schools. Parents who formerly sent their child to Logan Elementary expressed distaste for the relationship between teachers, the principal and the parents there. Others are upset that Rodriguez is opening with technology that hasn’t been offered to exisiting schools.

The attendance boundary proposal will be introduced to the school board next Tuesday, April 24.

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