After another futile attempt to bridge what one resident termed a "tremendous communications gap," the Palos Verdes Peninsula school board this week adopted revised intermediate-school attendance boundaries to reflect the closure of the Margate campus, apparently setting the stage for an increasingly bitter legal and political battle over the move.
During a marathon meeting Monday night, board members and community dissidents rehearsed familiar arguments for and against the district's decision last May to close Margate and consolidate its intermediate students on three remaining campuses--Malaga Cove, Ridgecrest and Dapplegray.
The presence of a court reporter, hired by the district to record the proceedings, seemed to emphasize a mutual belief that intractable differences between the two sides will have to be resolved by the judicial system or in the November elections.
After nearly six hours of recording the often-acrimonious but generally well-mannered debate, the weary stenographer, Marilyn Hoffman, pleaded for a break and the trustees agreed to adjourn to a Tuesday night meeting to complete their task. That session lasted 3 1/2 hours.
June Court Hearing
In both meetings the district's lawyer, Charles Greenberg, carefully counseled trustees on the wording of their official findings stating why the boundary changes are necessary. The statement, along with a 1,400-page environmental report, will be reviewed by Los Angles Superior Court Judge Irving Shimer at a June 6 hearing.
Shimer, in response to a lawsuit filed by Margate-area parents, is expected to decide whether the district needed an environmental report to change the boundaries and if so whether the report adequately deals with effects the changes may have on traffic, safety of residents, air quality and other environmental factors.
The final boundary changes generally follow a consultant's proposals aimed at equalizing attendance among the three intermediate schools for sixth, seventh and eighth graders while minimizing disruptions in past attendance patterns.
Margate students living near Lunada Bay will transfer to Malaga Cove and most students in the Abalone Cove and Point Vicente areas will go to Ridgecrest. Some families in the Abalone Cove strip and the lower Point Vicente area will have the option of sending their children to either school.
The Soleado area will be switched from Malaga Cove to Ridgecrest, starting with incoming sixth graders.
Projected enrollments next year are 534 at Dapplegray, whose boundaries were not changed, 843 at Ridgecrest and 884 at Malaga Cove--assuming that all of the parents in the Abalone Cove-Point Vicente strip exercise their option to send their children to the more accessible Malaga Cove.
The board gave its assurance that Dapplegray's programs will not suffer as a result of lower enrollment.
Dr. Patricia Sacks, a Margate parent and a radiologist at Torrance Memorial Hospital, offered what seemed a common view of Monday night's meeting--a "hopeless forum" in which the participants had already "made up their minds."
"It's obvious that we have a tremendous communication gap here," she said. "Our goals (for the district) are the same, but our solutions to the problems are different."
Clash of Opinions
Several speakers from the audience of about 150 brought up again their own extensive analyses of transportation, safety, earthquake and other factors, with most arguing that the school board had created the problems in the first place by deciding to close Margate instead of Malaga Cove.
The board members, in their turn, reviewed their reasons. In their conclusions, trustees conceded that the boundary changes may cause "substantial adverse impacts"--particularly in the safety of students biking or walking to Malaga Cove along narrow stretches of Palos Verdes Drive West.
But the board noted in its "statement of overriding considerations" that there are "special social, economic and other reasons" for approving the boundary changes.
The board deleted earlier references to Malaga Cove's "historic and aesthetic" values as a reason for keeping the 60-year-old campus open, focusing instead on a policy in the district's master plan aimed at equalizing school closures among the neighborhoods affected. It was noted that Malaga Cove had already lost Valmonte Elementary School, whereas the Margate campus will be the first to close in that area.