Citing high costs and disruption to education, a county committee last week recommended denial of a petition by the San Gabriel School District to unify so that students can attend their own high school instead of switching to Alhambra Unified.
The proposal calls for about 1,300 students who currently attend San Gabriel High School--which despite its name is located in Alhambra Unified--to switch in phases to a new high school that would be built within the boundaries of the San Gabriel School District.
The matter will now go to the State Board of Education. If that board approves the unification bid, it may be put to voters in the affected area for final approval.
San Gabriel officials complained after Wednesday's hearing that they were not given a chance to fully argue their position. They said they hope to have better luck in Sacramento.
"It's a setback, but I don't know how severe," San Gabriel school board member Barbara Bauld said. "I have a lot of hope."
The 7-2 vote by the Los Angeles County Committee on School Board Reorganization in Downey came as a victory for officials of the Alhambra Unified School District, who said the unification would increase segregation, cost millions in lost state funds and throw educational programs into chaos.
"It affects us financially and educationally and it doesn't make a lot of sense," Alhambra Supt. Bruce Peppin said.
In turning down the petition, Reorganization Committee members said the move would cost Alhambra Unified $1.8 million in state money that is tied to the number of pupils enrolled.
The committee also cited concerns that taxpayers in San Gabriel would bear the brunt of building a $14.3-million high school, since state construction funds are dwindling.
Committee members also said transferring about 40% of San Gabriel High School's 3,202 students out of Alhambra Unified would hurt the school's academic programs by forcing the district to reassign faculty members, draw up new classes and modify transportation routes.
The loss of students would also increase segregation at San Gabriel High School by lowering the Anglo student body by 4.9%, according to a report compiled by the county committee. The school's current racial makeup is 44.1% Latino, 40.7% Asian, 12.8% Anglo and 2.4% other.
"As much as I'd like to have a unified school district with community identity, (the change would) be quite disruptive," committee member Nancy Jenkins said.
This is the third time San Gabriel parents and school officials have attempted to unify their district, which serves 3,155 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Parents have complained that the Alhambra school board is unresponsive to their concerns and that building their own high school would give them more control over their children's education.
Alhambra officials denied the criticisms, saying the district has cooperated extensively with San Gabriel parents and included them in planning meetings.
But Bauld pointed out the merits of unification.
"The process is much more beneficial for curriculum and academic flow and community support," Bauld said. "Parents want to have local control from kindergarten to 12th grade so they can come to the board and ask for things."