Borders Set for Middle Schools

April 14, 1985|BOB MUIR | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — In a move designed to maintain ethnic balance, trustees of the Pasadena Unified School District have approved patchwork attendance boundaries for three middle schools that will open in September.

Supt. Phillip Jordan said the middle school program, approved by the board in January, will affect about 3,800 students. The present student ratio is about 20% Anglo and 80% black or Latino, mostly black. Jordan said the boundaries will require students in many neighborhoods to travel past one or two nearby middle schools to attend a school several miles away.

The board approved the plan by a 4-1 vote, despite concerns raised by Tony Stewart, president of the Altadena branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, who said the boundaries are unfair to children of all races who must travel across the city to attend schools. But she said the NAACP would not challenge the boundaries at this time.

Jordan said it will be impossible to assign each student to the closest campus because the concentrations of Anglo and minority pupils are scattered throughout the 22,000-student district.

Used 1980 Guidelines

Jordan said district officials used guidelines established by trustees in 1980 to determine attendance boundaries and that the boundaries will keep most students together from the sixth grade through high school.

The three middle schools will replace the district's two junior high schools. Middle schools combine grades 6 through 8, rather than grades 7 and 8 as in most junior high schools.

The middle school sites are Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in Altadena, Charles W. Eliot Junior High School in southeast Pasadena and Washington Fundamental School in northeast Pasadena.

Linda Davis, assistant superintendent for educational programs and services, said middle schools were developed to help students graduating from elementary schools make a smoother transition to the next level of education.

Frees Elementary Classrooms

She said the move also helps the district prepare for an anticipated 12% increase in elementary enrollment over the next four years. Elementary classrooms that once held sixth-graders will become available for students in lower grades, she said.

Trustee Henry Myers, the only board member to vote against the boundary plan, said it was a "step back" into the district's integration plans of the past.

The Pasadena district has a history of problems with integration plans. During the 1970s it was put under a court order to desegregate schools.

"I think it is history repeating itself. I think we're heading for a very negative situation," said Myers, a proponent of voluntary school integration for 12 years. "You'd think that we would be a little bit smarter after all the experiences we've had. It's sort of dumb."

Myers also said that he felt the boundaries would aid the "white flight" from the district. He said that the district's white student enrollment, just above 20%, has declined steadily over the past years.

"No one wants the district to be all minority," said Myers. "I think we have to bring the white kids back to Pasadena. This is not the way to do it."

The next issue will be how the district will transport students to the schools, Jordan said. The board is looking into the possibility of contracting a private carrier, he said. The district currently contracts buses from the Southern California Rapid Transit District and Embree Bus Co., a private firm, Jordan said.

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