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Board OKs Only Part of Busing Plan, but Parents Still Angry

February 03, 1988|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

Faced with an angry crowd of about 250 parents who opposed a controversial proposal to bus predominantly Latino students, Garden Grove Unified School District trustees Tuesday night adopted only part of the plan. The action silenced few critics.

By a 4-1 vote, the trustees agreed to reopen Carrillo Elementary School in Westminster to take students from overcrowded schools in western Santa Ana. But the motion did not stipulate how many of those predominantly Latino students would go to Carrillo, and the board left open the possibility of busing students to other schools.

Under the board's original plan, 550 students would have been bused from overcrowded schools in western Santa Ana to two schools in Westminster and one in Fountain Valley that have predominantly Anglo enrollments. That plan also called for the reopening of Carrillo.

Advisory Panel Suggested

The board's action Tuesday night directed Supt. Ed Dundon to report back in two weeks with suggestions on how a citizens' advisory committee could be formed to help the school board in implementing a busing plan.

The board made it clear that overcrowded students will be bused next fall, but the exact numbers and the schools that they will come from will be deferred until after the advisory committee issues its report. The boundaries for Carrillo school attendance also have to be determined. Many in the overflow audience at Fitz Intermediate School in Santa Ana testified that the board should obtain citizen views before launching any busing plan. But many parents were nonetheless unhappy at the board's compromise action because they opposed reopening of Carrillo.

Some of the parents testified that they rely on the day-care services provided by a private firm now leasing the school site. The day-care center will now have to vacate the site by September because of the board's vote.

"Why did you invite us here if you're not going to listen to us," yelled one young woman, who said she was a single parent, after the vote. She testified before the vote that she relied on the day-care center and could find no similar facility anywhere near her home.

Before the school board meeting, about 50 parents, mainly from Marshall School in Westminster, picketed in front of Fitz school. They carried signs that declared, "No Reverse Discrimination," and "Children Deserve to Go to School in Their Own Neighborhoods."

"We have no racial feelings involved in this," Sharon Camunas, a parent of two Marshall schoolchildren, told reporters before the meeting. "We're concerned about our school. Our own neighborhood children will become a minority in their own school."

She added that parents are concerned that an influx of students who speak limited English would set back other students academically.

Protesting parents complained that the school district sprung the busing proposals on them with only a week's notice. The parents received notices last week about proposed changes in school boundaries, all of which are related to the busing plan.

The original busing proposal involved Marshall, 15791 Bushard Ave., Westminster; the now-closed Carrillo, 15270 Bushard Ave., Westminster; Morningside Elementary, 10521 Morningside Drive, Garden Grove; Heritage Elementary, 426 S. Anders Place, Santa Ana; Rosita Elementary, 4726 W. Hazard Ave., Santa Ana; Russell Elementary, 600 S. Jackson St., Santa Ana, and Northcutt Elementary, 11303 Sandstone Ave., Fountain Valley.

While located in various cities, all those schools are within the sprawling Garden Grove Unified School District.

Dundon has said that for about five years, predominantly Latino students in the overcrowded area of the district have been bused to Morningside, Heritage and Rosita schools. But those schools have become too crowded, Dundon said, so the district faced the need of reopening one of the 12 schools it has closed since 1968 because of declining district enrollment.

The school picked for reopening, Carrillo Elementary, was closed in 1980, and its attendance area was absorbed by neighboring Marshall Elementary.

Because the students to be bused to Carrillo are predominantly Latino, district officials have said that it would be creating a de facto segregated school were they to put all 550 of the students into Carrillo.

District officials proposed giving Carrillo back its old attendance area, thus automatically giving the school a "base" of 149 predominantly Anglo students who now attend Marshall. Marshall would revert to its pre-1980 boundaries, giving it a base of 243 predominantly Anglo students. The plan called for busing 309 Latino students to Carrillo and 186 Latino students to Marshall.

Russell Elementary, which is now overcrowded, would be relieved under the busing plan by having 88 predominantly Latino students bused from that school to Northcutt Elementary, a declining-enrollment school in Fountain Valley.

Garden Grove Unified has been declining in student enrollment since hitting its peak of about 54,000 students in 1968. While elementary-student growth has been explosive in the school district's slice of the city of Santa Ana, overall growth in the district is still declining slightly. In the western area of Garden Grove Unified, many schools have light enrollments, and 11 schools are still closed.

The state will not finance a new school building in a district with overall declining enrollment and which has property that is still under-utilized. Thus, Garden Grove Unified has no opportunity to build a new school in the heavy student-enrollment area.

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