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SOUTHEAST AREA : School Merger Plan Raises Concerns

January 02, 1994|MARY HELEN BERG

Bell, Huntington Park and South Gate high schools would be merged as the largest cluster of schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District when it breaks up this year under a preliminary recommendation of the Cluster Transition Task Force.

The three high schools and their feeder campuses have about 55,000 students, 14,000 more than the next-largest recommended cluster, which pairs Garfield and Roosevelt high schools on the Eastside. The recommended clusters range from 13,693 to 54,850 students. Preliminary recommendations drafted by a task force subcommittee were sent to principals recently. School administrators, teachers, classified workers, parents and community representatives are being asked to sign off on the recommendations or suggest alternatives by Jan. 13. The subcommittee hopes to send final recommendations to Supt. Sid Thompson by early February.

The clusters are being formed under a plan to restructure the district, decentralize decision-making and improve accountability. Clusters are based on criteria that include community preferences, student enrollment, educational and social needs, proximity and number of schools in a complex, said Marianne Hudz, subcommittee chairwoman.

Community leaders had hoped that the Bell, Huntington Park and South Gate high school complexes would be considered independent clusters. It is unclear how district resources will be distributed, and a cluster of 55,000 students could be understaffed if it receives the same funding as smaller clusters, said Willene Cooper of the Southeast Legislative Coalition on School Overcrowding.

"This will be one more time when we have to take what we get and make it work, good, bad or indifferent," said Cooper, who believes the Southeast area has always been a low priority in the district. "I would at some point in my life like to progress past a holding pattern."

Joyce Peyton, director of the district office of school utilization, said that the Southeast high school complexes "are so large, the (subcommittee) doesn't know what to do with them.

"It's perfectly appropriate that schools that have been working together should continue to be grouped together," Peyton said. However, she added, "depending on what the resources are going to be, (a large cluster) could be out of balance with a cluster that has far fewer students and far fewer schools."

The subcommittee will discuss the issue further during meetings at 4 p.m. Jan. 10, 18, 24 and Feb. 2 at Downtown Business Magnet, 1081 W. Temple St.

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