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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Quality Education Is the Measure

March 30, 1994

The neighborhood school has long been the linchpin of public elementary education, whether it be a one-room school miles down a prairie road or a computer-filled building around a suburban corner. Tinker with the school population, raise the possibility of forced transfers, and trouble often results, as the Brea Olinda Unified School District has learned.

When the district experienced overcrowding in some of its six elementary schools, it wisely established a special committee. The panel recommended the transfer of slightly more than 100 students, including putting 50 from the Arovista and William E. Fanning schools at Laurel.

District officials defend the move, even though it will require some students to travel a greater distance. They say Laurel has benefited from smaller class sizes and received more money for educational programs than other schools in the last several years. They call unfounded the claim by some parents that it would be unsafe for transferred children to cross streets to reach the school.

But some concern also seems to center on the ethnic composition of the student population at Laurel. District officials report that some white parents object to having their children sent to Laurel because half the students there are Latino. The district's overall breakdown is 68% white, 18% Latino and the rest members of other minorities. The school should be judged on the quality of the education it provides, not the ethnicity of students.

District Supt. Edgar Z. Seal acknowledges the concerns of those parents who simply don't want their children transferred because the family bought a house or rented an apartment because of the quality of the neighborhood school. But Seal and the Laurel principal have handled the situation well, inviting parents to visit the schools involved and meet teachers and administrators. Moreover, the Board of Education listened to parental concerns last week and will meet again next month on the proposed transfers. The board must listen to legitimate concerns like safety and educational standards but not be swayed by objections based on ethnicity.

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