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School District Bows to Foes, Drops Reconfiguration Plan : Education: Officials informally accept parents' proposal that would adopt new grade-level concept without moving students.

June 06, 1991|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles school district has dropped a proposal to reconfigure the grade levels of Eagle Rock High School and four elementary schools this fall because of strong opposition by parents, officials said this week.

Instead, the district is pursuing an alternative plan proposed by parents that would make mainly "conceptual and philosophical changes" in the way the schools' sixth, seventh and eighth grades operate, officials said.

The decision was announced last week at a community meeting for parents of students at Eagle Rock High School and Eagle Rock, Dahlia Heights, Delevan Drive and Rockdale elementaries, said Joyce Peyton, administrator of priority housing for the district.

"There's no problem, as long as the community's proposal meets the instructional needs of children in the same way" as the district's proposal, Peyton said.

The district's long-term goal is to eventually reconfigure all of its 49 high school complexes, including feeder junior high and elementary schools, Peyton said. Many educators believe reconfiguration provides better instruction and more appropriately groups students together than under the traditional grade-level structure, she said.

Reconfiguration moves sixth-graders to junior high schools, which become middle schools for students in grades six through eight. High schools become four-year schools for students in grades nine through 12. Elementary schools serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Earlier this year, the Board of Education approved a reconfiguration plan to convert Washington Irving Junior High School in Glassell Park into a middle school and eliminate the sixth grade from six feeder elementaries. That plan will take effect in August, Peyton said.

But the board postponed a decision on a similar plan for the five Eagle Rock schools until parents and community leaders could develop an alternate proposal.

At meetings in January, hundreds of parents vigorously opposed the district's plan to move sixth-graders who usually would attend Eagle Rock Elementary to Irving, complaining that the children would be moved to a more dangerous school outside their Eagle Rock community.

Also under the proposal, sixth-graders at Dahlia Heights and Rockdale elementaries would have graduated to seventh grade at Burbank Junior High in Highland Park, instead of going to Eagle Rock High School, which houses students in grades 7 through 12. That part of the plan also drew opposition.

Under the community proposal, developed by a task force of parents and informally authorized last week by district officials, sixth-graders will remain at the three elementaries and at Delevan Drive Elementary, which feeds students to both Irving and Eagle Rock High.

Also, seventh- and eighth-graders will stay at Eagle Rock High, said Cathy Ellingford, who led the protest against the district's original plan.

But the middle-school concept still will be adopted: The task force has recommended that a separate lunch, instructional program, student council, intramural sports program and other activities be developed for seventh and eighth-graders to set them apart from ninth- through 12th-grade students on the Eagle Rock High campus, Ellingford said.

Sixth-graders would be linked more closely to the middle school through tours of the high school campus, participation in middle-school events such as picnics and open houses and more communication between middle-school teachers and the elementary schools, she said.

"What we're looking for is basically a change in educational philosophy," Ellingford said. "We do want these middle-school concepts applied to sixth-graders as well as seventh- and eighth-graders. But it doesn't mean the students actually have to move."

A planning committee of administrators, teachers and parents will be established later this year to oversee the proposal, Ellingford said. The most substantial changes probably will not take effect until the 1992-93 school year, she said.

Recommendations such as more communication between the high school and elementaries will not need approval by the Board of Education, although separate lunch hours and instructional changes may need such authorization, Ellingford said.

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