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Ventura County Perspective | SECOND OPINION

Plan Not Elementary for Parents

School grade alignment will cost Lang Ranch parents the rights that other parents in the district enjoy.

January 11, 1998|ELAINE C. McKEARN | Elaine C. McKearn is a member of the Conejo Valley Unified School District Board of Education

This Tuesday, there will be an important meeting of the Conejo Valley Unified School District: to decide whether the new Lang Ranch Elementary School will accommodate children from kindergarten through fifth grade or kindergarten through sixth grade. Because grade-level configuration is a contentious issue, it needs to be discussed openly, with ample time and notification given to the public.

The policy in our entire district is, and has been for a long time, that we would have K-6 in our elementary schools and grades 6-8 in our intermediate schools.

This provides some flexibility and choices for parents: to send those children who are ready to the sixth grade at the intermediate schools, and to keep those who still benefit by a more structured environment at the neighborhood elementary school.

Retaining a sixth grade at the local elementary school provides an additional benefit in that it keeps some of the older children around to act as positive role models for the lower grades. This is particularly helpful in those families with more than one child at the same school.

Unfortunately, our school board made a hasty decision, without the necessary open discussion, to have only K-5 at the new Lang Ranch Elementary School.

My concern is that this may be the first step in the direction of doing away with the sixth grade at your neighborhood schools throughout the district. The plan to move all sixth-graders to middle school is an idea supported by an educational study titled "Caught in the Middle." Once again, we are subjecting our children to yet another educational experiment based on educational whims.

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Recently, a survey was to have been done to gain input about a K-5 or K-6 arrangement for the district. In my opinion, it was worded in such a way as to be heavily biased toward the K-5 solution. For example, its first question asked if the reader wanted smaller class sizes. Of course. We all want smaller class sizes. Assuming that you chose smaller classes, the questionnaire then gave you three choices: 1) year-round school; 2) more portable buildings (i.e., trailers); or 3) kindergarten through fifth grade.

There was no question in the survey asking the parents if reopening some of our "neighborhood" schools, such as Waverly or Triunfo, would be worth considering. There was not even a place on the questionnaire to make comments. The parents got wind of it and said, in so many words: We want choices. It seemed like a done deal and a dead issue.

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The people in Thousand Oaks are not to be fooled. The decision was hastily voted on without parent knowledge. The vote was 4 to 1 (mine). I pleaded with my fellow board members to take up the K-5 or K-6 question at another board meeting. And now it looks like we will.

It should be a two-meeting agenda item, with information about it coming this week and a final vote on Jan. 27.

It seems to me the people of Lang Ranch need to decide for themselves if they want to be second-class citizens and receive fewer privileges and rights than the rest of the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

I urge you to attend the meeting on Tuesday and make your desires known. If you cannot attend, at least let your school board representative know your views.

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