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District May Alter School Boundaries

November 12, 1998|TONY LYSTRA

After yet another impassioned plea from parents of Peach Hill Elementary students, officials agreed that they may need to change attendance boundaries to ensure that Latinos are evenly integrated throughout Moorpark schools.

The Moorpark Unified School District could decide by March how to integrate its Latino population more evenly, Supt. Thomas Duffy said.

The prospect of altering boundaries within the district has school board members bracing for a debate that threatens to polarize the community, trustee David Pollock said.

"Because of the way Moorpark has developed, there's the potential for a classic uptown-downtown rift right along L.A. Avenue, and our challenge on the school board is maintaining diverse schools in essentially a segregated community," he said.

District statistics show that the number of Peach Hill students who are Latino has risen from 36% in 1992 to 49% this year, while Latino students make up 18% to 38% of the population at other Moorpark schools.

A group of parents approached the district last month hoping to change the ethnic ratio at Peach Hill because, they say, their English-speaking children aren't getting the attention they need in their classes.

But parents say they are also concerned that Peach Hill Latinos aren't getting a fair shake. Peach Hill parent Sean Johnson said Latino students aren't interacting with English-speaking students enough because they aren't comfortable with their language ability.

Duffy said district staff members will begin working with a computer model that maps different scenarios for boundary changes between now and next month. After the board decides it has a good feel for what the public wants--perhaps as a result of public forums--it probably will decide how to resolve the issue in March. Any changes to boundaries would take effect by September 1999.

Pollock said schools most likely affected by boundary changes would be Mesa Verde Middle School and Peach Hill, Campus Canyon and Flory elementary schools.

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