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Districts Propose Busing L.A. Students to Santa Monica

May 04, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Officials of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School districts have devised a plan to transfer up to 385 students from overcrowded schools in Los Angeles to under-enrolled schools in Santa Monica.

The proposal is expected to be presented to both boards sometime this month. If both approve it, school officials said that the busing program would begin in September.

Jerry F. Halverson, associate superintendent in Los Angeles, said that the students would be bused from schools in the Wilshire Boulevard corridor to the Santa Monica area. Neither district has named the schools that would be involved.

Santa Monica-Malibu Supt. George Caldwell told his board Monday night that the district could gain as much as $300,000 in revenue by taking students from Los Angeles. Santa Monica-Malibu's enrollment declined by 1,000 students in two years, prompting the layoff of 44 teachers. Enrollment is 9,600 this year.

Caldwell met with Los Angeles Supt. Harry Handler and his staff Tuesday to work out the final details of the plan. He will make a formal report to his board on May 12. The two superintendents have discussed the proposal several times since March.

Halverson said that most of the students will be seventh-graders because Santa Monica has more space at Lincoln and Adams Junior High schools. Fewer than 100 students will be sent to elementary schools and there are no plans to transfer high school students. Los Angeles will provide transportation.

Halverson said Los Angeles will study whether it is feasible to bus students to Malibu, which has been experiencing the sharpest decline in enrollment and has space for an additional 1,300 to 1,500 students.

The transfer proposal was first discussed by Los Angeles school board member Alan Gershman and Santa Monica-Malibu board member Bob Holbrook at an informal meeting in February.

Santa Monica has been concerned about the potential impact of a large increase in minority students on the district's racial balance. Forty percent of the Santa Monica-Malibu student population and 81% of the Los Angeles student population is minority.

"Our overcrowding," Gershman said, "is almost entirely in minority communities and they are the types of students we are looking to find classrooms for."

Santa Monica-Malibu school board member Della Barrett said that there are problems with the program.

"Yes, there are financial gains, but it looks as though there would be a lot of problems involved in our accepting children from Los Angeles schools," she said. "I'm not convinced that we are going to be able to work it out."

She said incoming students would have a difficult time making friends at their new schools because they do not live in the community. She also said parents would find it difficult to participate in school events.

Barrett said her constituents have expressed mixed reactions to the plan. "Some say it is a dynamite way to get more money and increase enrollment, but other people say, 'We didn't live in Los Angeles because we didn't want L. A. schools. Now you are thinking about bringing in Los Angeles students,' " she said.

But Santa Monica-Malibu board member Peggy Lyons said, "It is about time the community realizes that they can't have their cake and eat it too. You can't close off the community and keep our teachers from being laid off."

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