A controversial plan to reorganize La Canada's two elementary schools into lower and middle grade schools will not be implemented, at least for the time being, the school board voted Tuesday.
To the visible relief of many parents attending the meeting, the five-member La Canada Unified School District governing board voted unanimously to merely study the possibility of structuring La Canada and Paradise Canyon elementary schools into a kindergarten through third-grade school and a fourth-grade through sixth-grade school sometime after next year.
The vote came after an hour-long public hearing at which more than 20 people, most of them parents with children at Paradise Canyon school, told the board that such a plan would destroy the neighborhood school system.
The issue had been raised at a board meeting two weeks ago by parents and teachers from La Canada Elementary. That group, which remained silent Tuesday night, had urged the board to make the change in order to avoid having to increase the number of classes that combine two grades in one room, such as teaching third- and fourth-graders together.
More Classes Must Combine
La Canada Elementary now has only one combination class, for first- and second-graders. But the school will be losing two teachers next year because of dwindling enrollment, forcing it to combine its third- and fourth-grade classes and fifth- and sixth-grade classes. The school has an enrollment of 495 this year, according to district figures.
The La Canada Elementary parent-teacher group had said it was opposed to more combination classes because they would hurt the quality of education and prompt an exodus to private schools.
But at Tuesday's meeting parents of children attending Paradise Canyon, which has two combination classes, told the board that they were pleased with their children's education there and did not want to see it disrupted. District figures show Paradise Canyon has 677 pupils.
Those who spoke in opposition to the plan cited problems with transporting two or more children to two different schools, fears of their children having to cross busy Angeles Crest Highway when walking to school and loss of the neighborhood school concept.
'Kind of Like Busing'
"It really does seem to me kind of like busing," said Heather Leavitt, a graduate of the La Canada school system who has a 9-year-old brother at Paradise Canyon school.
Teachers at the school were also opposed to any change. Ann Higby, a Paradise Canyon faculty member, told school board members that the 27 teachers at the school wanted them to know that "they are in favor of the K-6 neighborhood school, now and in the future."
In contrast to the opposition of the Paradise Canyon faculty, the majority of teachers at La Canada Elementary favored reorganization. According to a survey conducted at the school, 19 teachers want to make the change, three were opposed and one abstained, according to Don Hingst, principal of the school. In addition, 15 teachers want the change to be in place next year, he said. Hingst did not express any opinion on the matter.
Study Had Been Recommended
The study of such a proposal had been recommended in a subcommittee report on long-range use of school facilities, but there had been no intention of implementing a reorganization plan next year, board members said.
Board member Carole Siegler told the audience that the report was only intended to help the board find a way to get maximum use of the schools in the face of declining enrollment. "The board was not considering a K-3, 4-6 configuration for next year," Siegler said. "We were not out looking in the middle of May to do something to change the schools. It came to us."