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School Panel Suggests Reopening of Palm Crest Elementary in 1988

May 21, 1987|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

The La Canada Unified School District shut down four schools less than a decade ago as enrollment tumbled from 5,000 students in the late 1960s to fewer than 3,000 in the late 1970s. But, with enrollment now on the rise, a school board subcommittee this week recommended reopening Palm Crest Elementary School in fall, 1988.

Built to accommodate 500 students each, the district's two remaining elementary schools--Paradise Canyon and La Canada--now serve 750 and 600 students respectively, said Carole Siegler, school board president.

So far, the district has accommodated the overflow of students by setting up portable classrooms. But a predicted increase of about 400 grammar school children by 1992 forced officials to seek another solution.

"A portable does not add another bathroom, does not make more room in the cafeteria, and it takes away playground space," Siegler said, explaining why the reopening of Palm Crest appears likely.

Palm Crest, on the west side of town north of Foothill Boulevard, is now occupied by the Ribet Academy, a private school whose five-year lease on the property lapses in 1988.

The district's subcommittee suggested that the Ribet Academy take over all of the former Foothill Intermediate School site, now occupied by adult education classes and some commercial tenants. Under the plan, Foothill tenants would move to the former Oakgrove Elementary school, now partly filled by a day care center.

Palm Crest's reopening would mean a change in boundaries of elementary-school attendance areas. And that has upset some parents.

For Debbie Clemmo, one of the more than 100 residents attending the final public hearing Tuesday night in the La Canada High School auditorium, the change would mean her son, now in third grade at Paradise Canyon, would have to attend La Canada Elementary.

"He will be forced to leave all of his friends and he won't be able to ride his bike to school because of the distance. I will have to drive him both ways," she complained after the meeting.

Clemmo's neighbor Diane Saunders said she too is frustrated, explaining that she and her husband recently moved across town so their children could attend Paradise Canyon, a school she says has a program superior to that offered by La Canada Elementary.

"We yanked the kids out of La Canada . . . and now they'll be going back. Isn't that fun?" Saunders asked facetiously.

Other parents, however, strongly support the reopening of Palm Crest. "I feel very at ease that my child will be able to go to a neighborhood school," said one mother of a 3-year-old, who otherwise would have to enroll her youngster in a school farther from home.

In a two-page report, the subcommittee called the reorganization "a one-time event" that did not "limit or degrade the long-term education program."

The school board is expected to approve the program at its meeting June 2, Siegler said.

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