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EDUCATION : Alhambra Gives Up Fight to Close Gabrielino High


Teachers and students were celebrating in the halls of Gabrielino High School this week as Alhambra school officials decided to give up the fight to shut down the fledgling high school.

"Students, teachers and parents are all very excited. I can hear them whooping down the halls," Dan Mooney, Gabrielino High School principal, said Monday. "Now we can get down to work without worrying about whether or not our school is going to disappear."

The decision not to take the case to the state Supreme Court was made during a special meeting of the Alhambra school board on Monday morning. The panel reached a unanimous decision not to pursue the case because of the time and money involved.

"It would be a long haul to the Supreme Court and we felt that we had given what we needed to give," said Richard Keilhacker, superintendent of the Alhambra City and High School Districts.

Gabrielino High School has been at the center of a disagreement between the San Gabriel and Alhambra school districts since a 1992 election created a new district and paved the way for the school's opening.

Before the election, San Gabriel students attended elementary and middle school in the San Gabriel school district, then went on to San Gabriel High School in the Alhambra district.

By voting for a unified district, San Gabriel residents in effect seceded from the Alhambra schools, which some San Gabriel residents felt was insensitive to their needs. San Gabriel High, on the border of the two cities, is officially in the city of Alhambra.

School officials in Alhambra contested the election, however, saying that because the outcome would have also affected Alhambra residents, they should have been included in the balloting.

Alhambra administrators opposed the unification because they stood to lose about 1,200 children and about $6 million in state funding over the next four years, said Sophie Wong, president of the Alhambra school board.

Alhambra administrators filed a lawsuit last year challenging the state board for allowing the 1992 unification of the San Gabriel district and the opening of Gabrielino High, a refurbished former middle school.

The Alhambra district won its suit in Superior Court, but the decision was overturned in December by the 2nd District Court of Appeal, allowing about 340 Gabrielino freshmen to remain at the school rather than return to the Alhambra district.

Wong said the district will not lay off any personnel but plans to focus on bringing more students to the district to make up for the financial loss.

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