The 20-year battle by Yorba Linda residents to be part of one unified school system will move closer to victory next week when the Yorba Linda and Placentia school boards hold a joint meeting to begin the process of merging their districts.
The Jan. 4 joint session of trustees from the Yorba Linda School District and the Placentia Unified School District--to be held in Yorba Linda--will involve several votes needed to complete the merger over the next year and a half.
"Everything seems to be going smoothly so far, and I don't see any more trouble ahead of us," Yorba Linda School District Trustee James Bartel said Thursday.
"It's been a long struggle. I came onto the school board 11 years ago with this as my major issue."
One of the votes scheduled for the Jan. 4 joint meeting involves a declaration that the planned merger does not have any negative environmental consequences. Then the trustees are scheduled to vote on the merger.
If those actions are approved, a merger referendum will be placed on the ballot in November in both the Yorba Linda and Placentia school districts. If a majority of the voters in each district approves, the merger could take place by the fall of 1989.
Placentia Unified officials support the merger because it would enlarge their district and make it eligible for additional state funding. The state appropriates money to districts based partly on enrollment.
"Everything's now down to just formalities," Bartel said. "Everything looks good for merger by the beginning of the 1989 school year."
Bartel and other Yorba Linda residents have fought for a single school district to serve all of the city's children, partly because they perceive a need for a high school located closer to western sections of the city. Residents there now have to send students to Troy High School in Fullerton. That school is part of the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, which does not border the Yorba Linda School District.
Indeed, West Yorba Linda is the only community in California where it is necessary to commute to a non-neighboring high school district.
For years, Yorba Linda tried to get the Fullerton district to build a high school in Yorba Linda. The high school district, however, canceled tentative plans to build a new campus there after studies indicated the population was insufficient to justify the cost.
Yorba Linda then threatened to pull out of the Fullerton High School District, a move that was halted by court order after Fullerton school officials said they would be forced to close at least one high school.
The dispute was settled when legislation was passed in Sacramento last fall that allows the Yorba Linda School District, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade, to merge into the neighboring Placentia Unified School District, which serves kindergarten through high school.
The bill, however, requires students of high school age in the Yorba Linda district to continue to go to high school in Fullerton so that the Fullerton district will not lose state funds or have to close a campus.
Nevertheless, West Yorba Linda residents are happy. The entire city will soon be in one unified school district. "A unified school district like Placentia gets more state funding per pupil (the state encourages unification), and this means more school programs than our present elementary district can offer the students," Bartel said.
Bartel said that the eastern part of Yorba Linda, which includes new, developing subdivisions, has always been in Placentia Unified. "Only this five-square-mile section of mostly downtown Yorba Linda has been in Yorba Linda School District," he said.