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Placentia Unified, Awash in Controversy, Steers an Even Course

May 29, 1986|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

It was the "Schools B-4 Pools" faction versus the "Placentia Unified School District can have pools and schools" group--otherwise known as the newer residents of eastern Yorba Linda against the more established residents of Anaheim and Placentia.

During a six-hour meeting Tuesday night that stretched into Wednesday morning, Placentia Unified school board members gave both groups what they wanted: new pools at two schools plus a school and community center to be built with the City of Yorba Linda.

But while pleasing many residents, the board disappointed others in the 200-plus crowd when members delayed a few school projects to pay for the new ones.

"It was a matter of how we were going to cut up the pie," explained John M. Perry, district assistant superintendent of administrative services.

A slice of the pie--about $1.3 million--will go toward building new pools at Valencia and El Dorado high schools in Placentia. School coaches have described the current swimming facilities as a liability, or as one coach put it, "The pool is about ready to fall through the ground."

The proposal for new pools had received support for almost two years until "a well-organized group of eastern Yorba Linda residents" began "a very effective campaign called 'Schools B-4 Pools,' " according to a flyer that urged Anaheim and Placentia residents to contact board members and support the pool construction.

The district--which oversees schools in Yorba Linda, Placentia and Anaheim, with some students coming in from Brea and Fullerton--plans to build two schools in the next few years in eastern Yorba Linda to accommodate the growing population there.

As part of one of the proposed new schools--the Travis Ranch school--the district and the City of Yorba Linda planned on joint funding and joint use of a community center to be used by students during school hours and by the community after school and during weekends. The school district expects to open the Travis Ranch school by September, 1987, one year behind schedule.

Board members gave their support to the community center Tuesday night, but they reiterated their concerns about the joint governance of the building. The members said they want to meet with city officials to discuss the matter.

The board also questioned whether the district could afford its share of the center's $2.4-million cost, which could increase to $3.2 million after financing. And to the dismay of Anaheim and Placentia students and their parents, one of the items the school board had considered cutting back to pay for the 20,000-square-foot community center were the pools.

Fawnetta Simon, Valencia High School's Parent-Teacher-Student Assn. president, told the board: "We definitely believe we need the pools. Valencia's pool was built in 1935. Water is not recycled after heating. The pool deck above the equipment room is cracked, equipment is old, and the pool is definitely in need of replacement."

Now, with both the Travis project and the new pools for Valencia and El Dorado approved, several other projects have been delayed.

One, postponed until 1988, is a science building at Valencia High School. Simon said parents at her school will not be pleased to hear of the setback. The project will probably be completed by 1991, she said.

Another cutback will be at Esperanza High School in Anaheim, where the board placed a $2.8-million, two-story building on the back burner. For now, the building will not be necessary because enrollment is not as high as once was expected, Perry said.

A third project set back for at least another five years is a $1.8-million warehouse and office area for the school district, which now leases a warehouse.

In a related matter, the school board agreed to send a strong message to the City of Placentia to complain about what school officials said was a luck of support for local schools.

Anaheim contributes between $1.6 million and $1.7 million per year to the Placentia district, Perry said. Yorba Linda began its financial relationship with the district after its redevelopment agency was started more than a year ago. The Travis Ranch is one of at least two joint projects in the works.

However, school officials complained that Placentia has yet to do its part.

"I think it's time they be held accountable," district Supt. Keith Larick said. "They haven't fulfilled (their) obligation."

Placentia Councilman John Tynes said he could not comment on the remarks until he read the letter that board members plan to send the city.

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