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Arts High School Is Poised to Relocate

Santa Ana Site Targeted, but Estancia High Is Another Possible Location Starting in the Fall Semester


Negotiations are in the final stages for the Orange County High School of the Arts to move to a new home in Santa Ana, Principal Ralph Opacic said Thursday.

The purchase price, which he would not disclose, and financing are the only two details left unsettled in the agreement.

The site is a vacant building located near the Bowers Museum and the Discovery Science Center.

If the price is right and the arts school can come up with the financing, an announcement will be made sometime during the next Santa Ana Unified School District Board meeting Jan. 25. At that meeting, school board trustees from Santa Ana will vote on a proposal for the arts school to operate as a charter school.

The arts high school--a program focusing on dancing, music and the arts with about 425 students--lost a legal battle last year with the city of Los Alamitos over its expansion plans and this is the school's final semester at Los Alamitos High School. Board members are also looking at Estancia High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District as another possible site in the event the Santa Ana site falls through.

"We're trying to finalize our new location so that when we meet with parents they will have all the information rather than giving it to them piecemeal," Opacic said. He said he understands the concerns of parents and students, especially the 124 inter-district High School of the Arts students who are attending Los Alamitos High School, where the arts program has been housed for 13 years.

This year's inter-district juniors will be able to continue at Los Alamitos High School in September and will be able to attend the arts high school on a part-time basis after-school.

Members of the Los Alamitos school board voted to support 75 of these students for one year by paying $400 toward their sixth-period class. This year's freshman and sophomore inter-district transfers will have to choose between going to the arts school full-time or returning to their home school district.

Some of those students have expressed concern over their future. "You're taking a group of youngsters and displacing them," complained Philip Aguet, 15, of Lakewood. "Some have trained their whole lives to get into OCHSA. You have kids that are now going to have to say goodbye to their peers, teachers . . . "

Allyson Fernbach of Huntington Beach faces the possibility of having to go to an unfamiliar high school in her hometown and even though she says it's a good school, she's disappointed she will have to leave some friends behind.

If the school moves to Santa Ana, Fernbach said she might consider going with it but is also worried the academic standards won't be as strong.

But Opacic, whose priority is a smooth transition to the new site, says the arts school will implement the same curriculum and textbooks being used now.

"For parents' peace of mind, we'll provide the same academic program as what their children would be getting at Los Alamitos High School."


Ana Cholo-Tipton can be contacted at (714) 966-5890.

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