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Getting Into Arts School Can Be Education in Itself

June 25, 1989|CHRIS PASLES

The issue of attending the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA) full time, as opposed to an after-school basis, revolves around artistic and financial concerns.

Each individual school district must approve a full-time transfer of each student to Los Alamitos High School, where OCSHA classes are held. If a district denies an individual's application, a student may appeal to the Orange County Board of Education.

Trumpeter C. William Alsop, 15, who lives in Garden Grove, remembered that after he was accepted to OCHSA, he sent a form to the Garden Grove Unified School District requesting an interdistrict transfer to Los Alamitos.

"They denied it right away," he said. "So we had to go to the county school board and go through a proceeding. . . . It was very formal. You would go in and sit down like at a court proceeding. Each person would have time to say their piece . . . like playing a defendant."

Alsop said his father made the case that because Garden Grove was going through an overhaul of its music program, "they didn't have what I wanted."

That was the key to winning the appeal, according to Nina Winn, administrator for curriculum instruction at the county office of education.

"If the (individual school) district could show that they had a fine arts program that was equivalent to what the student would be getting at Los Alamitos," Winn said, then the transfers would not be approved.

"Some districts," she added, "were concerned about their students who were outstanding people in their own arts program leaving their program and going into the other district. Initially, there was a lot of publicity about . . . (students leaving) their home districts without any super-talented students.

"But I think that has settled down. There are not large numbers of transfer students. The numbers are not significant."

About 125 transfer students go to OCHSA full time from 24 other school districts. The prime contributors are Long Beach, with 35; Artesia-Buena Park-Cerritos, 18; Garden Grove, 17; Anaheim, 16, and Huntington Beach, 13, according to OCHSA director Ralph Opacic. Others districts number four or five each.

There are also 50 full-time students whose resident high school already was Los Alamitos. About 115 students attend on an after-school basis.

Money is also an issue. "Wherever a student attends, there is money granted from the state on average daily attendance," Winn said.

"That home district receives the ADA, as it is called. Obviously, if a student transfers out of the district, there is a loss of that money to that district."

For every full-time OCHSA transfer student at Los Alamitos, the high school receives $3,200 from the state, Opacic said.

"Of that, $1,800 goes to academic education; the balance, $1,400, goes to the school of the arts," he said.

For districts with enrollment declines, the threat of losing even more money--even for a such an apparently worthwhile cause as pre-professional arts training for gifted students--is chilling.

Again, however, "what we're finding is that we have such a minimal number of students from any one district, the program isn't impacting any one district enormously," Opacic said. "There are just a couple of districts close by (such as Anaheim and Huntington Beach) experiencing a decline in enrollment which have a tough time accepting the philosophy of OCHSA being a magnet school for the county.

"However, that has been worked out, or is in the process of being worked out, at the district level. . . . Over the course of this year, we've tried to improve communication between our district office and other school district offices. They've learned we are just taking a limited number of students, have a stiff auditioning procedure and are very selective. Their anxiety level has lessened."

Still, it is too early to tell whether there will be transfer denials and appeals for the next school year, Opacic said. Classes will begin Sept. 7.

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