The State Board of Education, its membership depleted by a death and three other vacancies, has indefinitely postponed a hearing on a petition to split the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District into two systems.
An East Side parents group, which had sought the delay, applauded the decision but noted that it would not help their effort to keep Miraleste High School open.
Donna Perrin, president of the East Peninsula Education Council, said Thursday that the secession petition "has no impact on keeping Miraleste open." She said the only thing preventing the district from closing Miraleste is the group's suit, which was argued Thursday in the state Court of Appeal.
A ruling is expected within 90 days.
School Supt. Jack Price said the indefinite delay announced by the Board of Education Tuesday "just prolongs the agony for everyone. Parents and their children are left in a state of uncertainty," while the issue of splitting the district is unresolved.
The East Side group has followed a two-track strategy since November, 1987, when the school board voted to shut the seventh- through 12th-grade school. One tactic was to petition for a vote to split the 9,800-student district; the other was a lawsuit.
Superior Court Judge Miriam Vogel, ruling in favor of the parents group, ordered the district to assess the environmental impact of multiple closings of schools on the East Side before shutting Miraleste.
The district hired a consultant to do an environmental impact report, which will be completed later this month, and at the same time appealed the Superior Court ruling. That appeal was argued Thursday.
If the appellate court overturns Vogel's ruling, the district will be free to close Miraleste.
Both sides agree that it is unlikely that the vacancies on the State Board of Education will be filled before July.
In requesting the delay, the parents group had argued that the petition could not get a fair hearing at a scheduled April 13 meeting because the board has lost four of its 11 members.
Perrin said that if one of the remaining seven members missed the meeting, the board would have the minimum needed under state law to act on the petition. A requirement for a unanimous vote to approve the petition, Perrin said, would place a "severe and unreasonable burden" on her group's efforts.
When the state board finally acts, it will have two choices. It can reject the petition, an outcome that would end the secession effort--unless the parents group appeals the action in the courts.
Or, it could approve the petition and set an election after determining who would be eligible to vote on the secession. The state board's staff has recommended approval of the petition and limiting the vote to residents of the proposed new district, which generally uses Crenshaw Boulevard as its dividing line.
However, proponents of maintaining the existing unified system say any election should be districtwide, arguing that the quality of education on the entire peninsula will be hurt by splitting the schools' resources.
Perrin and other leaders of the parents group concede that the secession effort would fail in a districtwide election, since only about one-quarter of the peninsula's registered voters live on the East Side.
District officials estimate that they can save about $1 million annually in operating costs by closing the under-enrolled Miraleste campus and transferring its students to schools in the central and western parts of the peninsula.