March 16, 2007

Logan Heights Parents Are Stirred Up Over New School Boundaries

By Raymond R. Beltran

Logan Heights- Voter-approved Proposition MM funds may have provided new campuses in Logan Heights, but parents at Perkins Elementary are concerned with the district’s proposal about how to fill new classrooms.

Laura Rodriguez Elementary is a new 6.5 acre campus in Logan Heights. It will provide 32 classrooms for K-5 students starting this September. To open with a strong population, the district is adjusting the existing attendance boundaries currently shared by five other existing elementary schools.

Currently, schools Kimbrough, Sherman, Logan, Burbank and Perkins have attendance boundaries, which determine what families they will serve. But now, Laura Rodriguez needs its own boundaries in order to fill its own classes, and that means adjustments for everyone, says Area Superintendent Delfino Alemán, who presented some changes to parents at Perkins Elementary last week.

Parents’ are concerned that the changes will result in siphoning up to 44 percent of Perkins’ students to fill new classes (exhibited by district projections) and that’s more than twice as much as other schools would sacrifice.

Eighty parents attended last week’s meeting with Dr. Alemán to express their concerns.

“Why pick my school?” “There’s a new school and you’re going to pull my kids?” “Is it because we live in a low income area?!” “I don’t think it’s fair!”

For residents, adjusting boundaries not only means finding new ways to get their children to schools further away, but it means uprooting them from teachers they have built a relationship with.

Rosa, a local mother, says that her son graduated from Perkins. He had a teacher from the National Board of Certified Teachers and was accepted to Preuss UCSD Middle, a school geared toward college prep classes. He graduated with a 4.25 grade point average and now, she has a fourth grader she’d like to graduate from Perkins too.

From the parents’ standpoint, it seems that no one wants to transfer. For the district, the challenge of populating Laura Rodriguez remains.

“I heard the parents loud and clear,” Alemán said this week. “They want their kids to go to college … and they want good programs like everywhere else in the district, but we want to be so good that people won’t send their kids outside of the neighborhood to go to school.”

48 percent of students in Perkins’ area are attending charter schools or are bussed out to La Jolla or Point Loma, according to the district.

For now, the new boundary proposal has been scrapped and Alemán says there will be a meeting next Thursday, March 22, at Logan Elementary to propose a revised plan. Parents are to expect a letter in the mail this weekend.

District data shows that overcrowded K-5 schools like Logan accommodate 800 students, Perkins, 430 students, and Kimbrough, 928. Their averaging about 135 students per acre and Alemán says the district wants campus populations lowered to 100 students per acre. He says adjusting boundaries would help that issue as well.

They would like to see Rodriguez open with 512.

Organizing staff and residents are drawing up a list of commitments to the district to ensure that students and families, with seniority in the area, can be grandfathered-in to attending Perkins. They want commitments in writing.

Alemán says one of two options can remedy the issue, grandfa-thering-in fifth grade students and their siblings can work, or adjusting the existing boundaries slightly as to not drastically affect student numbers on any specific campus. He added that nothing is concrete until the district can review enrollment numbers when school starts in September.

Parents and staff at Perkins also fear that a decline in enrollment will only lead to less funding, meaning a loss of quality teachers, some grade combination classrooms and cutting services like the school nursing staff, learning materials and field trips.

Some worry that a drastic decline in funding will lead to Perkins’ closure in the future and that the land will be sold for condo conversion. Alemán calls it “pure fiction.”

Attendance boundaries were also adjusted to accommodate the new Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in City Heights, which will feed off students from schools like Edison, Hamilton, and Rosa Parks Elementary this fall. Aleman and MacPhail said parents accepted the idea, but ultimately, they were notified at a January 25th community meeting at Clark Middle School.

Parents expressed outrage and a feeling of neglect for finding out about changes two months later than schools to the north.

“My career has been built on the people,” said Alemán. “You won’t get it one hundred percent right, but we have to listen to them because we are public servants and we’re here for the people.”

The district’s deadline to finalize the issue for the school board is April 10.

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