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School Districts OK New Boundaries, Swap Students : Education: If approved by the county, about 250 students would be affected. The change would fix erratic, overlapping boundaries.

August 29, 1991|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Board of Education of the Downey Unified School District gave its blessing Tuesday to a boundary change that will enable as many as 250 students in Bell Gardens and Downey to attend school within their home cities.

Los Angeles County officials must still approve the change, which would transfer as many as 200 Bell Gardens students out of Downey schools and into classrooms in the Montebello Unified School District. The Montebello District serves most of Bell Gardens.

Downey Unified would receive as many as 50 students who live just inside Downey's western border and in the Montebello District.

School officials say the change will fix some erratic boundaries that cross city borders and even divide some streets between the two school districts.

That has meant, for example, that some students on Gallant Street in the southeast area of Bell Gardens attend a neighborhood school while other children on the same street ride buses to school in Downey.

On Downey's western border, students on one side of Guatemala Avenue are in the Montebello District, while students on the other side of the street are in the Downey school district.

School officials say the boundaries were in place before Downey and Bell Gardens incorporated and before some residential neighborhoods were built.

"It doesn't follow anything that makes a logical division," said Donna Boose, Downey's deputy superintendent.

So far, there has been no public opposition to the proposed change, officials for the districts said. The Montebello Board of Education approved the change last June.

Public hearings will be held and the County Board of Supervisors must give its approval before the boundary change would take effect in September, 1992, officials said.

Officials of the 33,000-student Montebello district and the 15,000-student Downey district said the precise financial impact of the change must still be determined, but they expect it to be minimal. The districts receive about $3,000 a year per student in state funding.

Downey Unified will probably lose more than 100 students and the funding they bring to the district. But the district will no longer have to pay to bus about 100 students from Bell Gardens to Downey, and there will be room for more students in the growing district, Boose said.

Downey board member Grace E. Horney cast the lone vote Tuesday against the change, saying, "I have some concerns about budgetary implications."

Montebello Unified has room for the students at its Bell Gardens schools and will not have to bus any of them, said Faustino Ledesma, acting assistant superintendent.

"Economically, for both sides it would probably be better," Ledesma said.

Montebello Unified's boundary would be revised to include 80 acres of territory in Bell Gardens, and about 70 acres currently in the Montebello district would be included in Downey Unified.

Boose estimated that 180 to 200 students who live in Bell Gardens and now attend Downey schools will be affected. Those students are currently assigned to Price Elementary, Griffiths Middle School and Warren High School.

If the boundary changes take effect next year, they would attend Garfield Elementary, Bell Gardens Intermediate and Bell Gardens High School.

About 30 to 50 Downey students in the Montebello District would be permanently assigned to Price, Griffiths and Warren if the change were to be made.

In the past, Downey and Bell Gardens students have received permission on a year-by-year basis to attend schools in their home cities.

Last year, 11 Bell Gardens students in the affected neighborhoods were given permits from Downey Unified to attend schools in Bell Gardens, said Stan Hanstad, Downey's director of pupil services. About 15 students received permits from Montebello Unified to attend Downey schools, he said.

The change will be welcomed by a handful of Downey and Bell Gardens parents. Wayne Siu of Downey urged school officials to approve the change so he will not have to make his annual trek to Montebello to obtain permits that allow his two children to attend Price Elementary in Downey.

"We've lived in Downey for 10 years," Siu said. "It's right for Downey people to go to Downey schools."

Community correspondent Suzan Schill contributed to this story.

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