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Pupil Shift in Norwalk Protested by Parents

March 20, 1986|CARMEN VALENCIA | Times Staff Writer

NORWALK — As the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District refined plans Monday to alleviate growing enrollment in the next five years, a group of parents and teachers from Edmondson Elementary School asked the school board to kill a proposal that would transfer 425 children to another elementary school.

More than 200 parents jammed the district's board room during a 6:30 p.m. study session to protest a boundary change that, beginning in the fall, would require that all kindergarten through fifth-grade children who live on Alondra Boulevard and Hayford, Nava and Lowemont streets be bused to Waite Elementary School on Norwalk Boulevard, which is about three-fourths of a mile away.

The district has been honing plans since January to deal with a burgeoning enrollment in the kindergarten through seventh grade. But the district's latest plan for this neighborhood has met with broad dissatisfaction.

Want Alternative

"None of us are in agreement with the changes that will affect the education of our children," said Leticia Torres, a mother of three children who attend Edmondson. She submitted petitions signed by more than 300 people to the board. "We ask you to find another solution that will not require the . . . transportation of our children."

Because Waite is not in the immediate neighborhood, parents said that it would be difficult to participate in school activities, and expressed fears that the plan would change the successful bilingual program as well as compromise the safety of children who would have to walk to bus stops and ride on buses.

School officials said the transfering of students is necessary to deal with long-term overcrowding in the lower grades, and to add a sixth and seventh grade at Edmondson, which is the only district school that is kindergarten to fifth grade. The increase in young children is due to an influx in Norwalk of young Latino families with a high birthrate, said district officials.

District officials said that they hope to finalize plans by early April to prepare for implementation in the fall.

Fears for Children

But parents and teachers oppose this plan and they asked the board to consider other alternatives. Board member Jesse Luera and some parents primarily raised the issue of safety as a reason why the boundaries should not be changed and children bused.

"No one is going to take care of the children. They could get hit by a car. Before you make a decision, think of the safety of our little ones," said parent Alex Camaron.

"Children who are riding buses are not wearing seat belts. This is a safety concern to all," said Josephine Magadon, an Edmondson parent of two children.

Bilingual teachers from Edmondson--which is 89% Latino and has 500 limited-English-speaking students--took turns praising the program at the school and citing a rise in CAP test scores and proficiency writing exams.

Scores Said to Be Improving

"The academic progress seen in students is outstanding," said bilingual teacher Debbie Garza, who noted that in 1981, 38% of the students passed an English proficiency test. In 1985, 92% of the students passed. "The numbers show scores are increasing."

Maria Hansen, a first-grade bilingual teacher, said Edmondson has a unique program in place to deal "with this type of child--the limited-English-speaking child. We should not be broken up. This program did not come about by happenstance. It came by planning."

The teachers strongly urged the board to keep the bilingual education program as it is--by not transferring students or teachers--saying that other schools might not be as well prepared or equipped to deal with limited-English-speaking children.

Districtwide enrollment is expected to decrease from 17,904 students in 1985-86 to 17,607 in 1990-91, but the elementary school population is expected to grow from 11,078 this year to 11,318 in five years.

Under the proposed plan, Edmondson would be changed from a kindergarten through fifth-grade school to kindergarten through seventh-grade school in addition to the transfer of children from the four streets. Edmondson's enrollment in September, 1986, would be lower than it is today, though it is expected to increase each year thereafter.

Because Edmondson is the only elementary school in the district with a kindergarten through fifth-grade configuration, Waite has gotten most of the sixth- and seventh-graders who otherwise would have gone to Edmondson, said Supt. Bruce Newlin.

'Choice Between 2 Issues'

"The bottom line is, do we want to have Waite primarily impacted as a sixth- (and) seventh-grade school?" Or, should that portion of the population be evenly distributed at all the schools.

"It's a choice between those two issues," he said.

"What is your biggest priority--keeping kids in the neighborhood or balancing out a school," he said later.

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