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Education Gets Top Priority in District's Plan to Reorganize

August 06, 1987|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

The top priority in a major reorganization of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District will be to improve the system's educational programs, trustees decided this week.

All other factors, including the distances that students must travel to reach their campuses and the effect on Peninsula traffic, will be of far less importance in determining which schools to close and how to group the various grade levels, according to the guidelines approved by the trustees.

The concept of neighborhood schools, a system cherished by generations of parents and students--and a battle cry in resisting each school closure in the past--did not even make the school board's list of priorities.

In signaling an end to public agonizing over the fate of individual schools, the board declared that it will continue to close campuses until the district has been cut down to a size that it can afford.

"Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, we will do it," said Trustee Jack Bagdasar.

Specific Proposals Requested

The board, at a meeting Monday night, directed Supt. Jack Price to come up with specific proposals for bringing about a "massive change" in the way the district is operated. He estimated that at least $1 million will have to be cut from operating costs "to keep the district on an even financial keel."

According to a schedule approved by the board, Price will give his report on Sept. 2. Three public hearings on the proposals will be held in the district's high schools. The first at Palos Verdes High School on Sept. 29, the second at Miraleste on Oct. 7 and the third at Rolling Hills on Oct. 12. All of the hearings will begin at 7 p.m. in the school gyms.

The board will decide which plan to adopt at a Nov. 2 meeting, probably in Hesse Park, where live cable television coverage can be provided. In setting the decision date on the eve of the Nov. 3 election--where two trustees will be chosen by voters--the board indicated that it wants to minimize school closures as an issue in the campaign.

Price said that few, if any, teacher layoffs will result from the consolidation, "since we will need the same number of teachers for the same number of kids." But he said school closures will inevitably lead to reductions in the administrative staff of about 35, and in the number of teacher aides and clerical, custodial and food service workers, now about 300. The district employs about 850 full- and part-time workers.

"It sounds hard-hearted," he said, "but it comes down to a case of survival."

Enrollment in the 10,000-student district, along with state financing based on average daily attendance, has fallen about 40% since the mid-1970s. The district has already closed five elementary and intermediate schools, leaving 13 regular campuses and a continuation high school.

General outlines for the consolidation, Price said, call for closing the remaining two intermediate schools and sending their students to high school and elementary campuses. One or more elementary schools may also be closed.

Price said state law does not require environmental impact studies when a district closes schools or redistributes its students on different campuses. In the past, the reports became the focus of costly delays in carrying out some school closures against fierce opposition from community groups.

However, the effect of the new closures on already congested Peninsula traffic is expected to become a principal source of contention in the public hearings.

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