SAN PEDRO — School district officials will meet with parents of children at White Point Elementary School this week to explain plans to bus children to local campuses to ease overcrowding at inner-city schools.
At the parents' request, Trustee John R. Greenwood and Sally Coughlin, an assistant superintendent in charge of the Los Angeles Unified School District's facility utilization task force, will meet with parents at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the school auditorium.
"There is a lot of uneasiness about what the district wants to do and how it will affect our school, which is already becoming crowded," said Ruth Cuccia, president of the Parent-Faculty Organization at the White Point school. "We are willing to accept more kids, but at the same time we don't want to see our community school undermined."
Cuccia said a heavy influx of students from other areas could create traffic and safety problems, reduce playground space as classroom bungalows are added and lower the school's quality of education.
Many of the incoming children are expected to be non-English-speaking, she said, and their greater educational needs will take teacher time away from neighborhood pupils.
'Overcrowding Us . . . '
Other parents charged that the district is trying to solve its overcrowding problems by, as one parent put it, "overcrowding us." District spokesman Marty Estrin said plans approved by the board in December call for installing four bungalows at White Point this summer and busing in children from other schools that have reached their capacity. He said he did not know how many children would be bused in or where they would come from, but he noted that each bungalow provides classroom space for about 30 pupils.
Enrollment at White Point has grown rapidly in recent years, largely as a result of new military housing in the area. Currently, 545 students attend the campus, which has a capacity of 569, Principal Jack Zannella said.
Estrin said the district also plans to install four bungalows at Seventh Street Elementary, which, like White Point, currently has none. Two more bungalows may be added at Leland Street Elementary, which already has two recently installed bungalows and several older ones, he said.
A number of other district schools in the South Bay have been receiving bused-in students for several years as part of the system's effort to relieve overcrowding. In San Pedro, they include Crestwood and Taper Avenue elementaries.
Districtwide, Estrin said, 265 new bungalows will be installed this year to accommodate an estimated 9,000 students at receiving schools. The giant district, which now has about 590,000 students, expects enrollment to jump by 15,000 next year and grow to a total of 667,000 in the next five years, Estrin said.
He said the district does not expect to see a deterioration in educational standards at White Point and other receiving schools, since more teachers and classroom aides are assigned to keep up with increased enrollment. Bilingual programs are added or expanded where needed, he said.
"Some people seem to feel that their schools should be off-limits to new students who don't fit a certain profile, but that's not the way our society works," Estrin said.
Los Angeles is being "overwhelmed" by its rapidly growing student population, largely from immigration and rising birthrates, but the school system is obliged to "give the best education we can to every child in the district," Estrin said.
White Point parent Anne Green said "reasonable increases" in enrollment at local schools will not upset the community. But, she said, the question that Trustee Greenwood and other officials should answer is, "How far will they go with this and where will it all end?"
Estrin said plans are in the works to build 18 new campuses, expand 32 others and convert more schools to a year-round schedule. But until those measures begin to take up some of the slack, he added, busing to outlying schools will be a primary means of dealing with overcrowding.