The city's largest school secession plan would leave at least 8,000 students who are bused into the San Fernando Valley with no place to go unless schools in the Westside and Harbor areas converted to year-round schedules, a top Los Angeles school administrator said Thursday.
Under a proposal by a Valley civic group to split up the nation's second-largest school district and form two autonomous systems in the Valley, the remaining Los Angeles Unified School District would be "instantly overcrowded," particularly in the middle and high schools, said Gordon Wohlers, LAUSD's assistant superintendent for policy, research and management.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization released a report on the feasibility of dismantling the LAUSD and forming two 100,000-student districts in the Valley under a plan by Finally Restoring Excellence in Education, or FREE, a grass-roots group.
The data will play a significant role when the 11 county committee members, who are elected by school district governing boards throughout the county, make a recommendation next week to the state Board of Education whether to put the LAUSD breakup issue before voters.
Conducted by an independent consulting firm in San Diego County, the report cost about $65,000 in state money awarded to the county education office to research breakup issues.
FREE leaders declined comment Thursday, citing a need to carefully analyze the data.
The two-volume report acknowledged that a split could promote ethnic segregation and warned that a prospective loss of desegregation funds could cause substantial financial problems for the remaining LAUSD.
Currently, the 8,000 students are bused to Valley schools from overcrowded neighborhoods elsewhere.
"Not only is there not enough room for the boys and girls," Wohlers said, "but taking them out of the Valley would break up the instructional flow for these children."
Already, with 711,000 students, L.A. Unified needs to build 10 high schools and five middle schools in crowded neighborhoods downtown, along the Wilshire corridor and in the southeast and South-Central areas of the city, Wohlers said.
He estimated that six to nine more schools would have to be built in those neighborhoods if FREE's plan is ultimately approved.
"Irrespective of what happens," Wohlers said, "We still need to build more schools."
Interim Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said that if the Valley formed its own school districts, other parts of the city would follow suit, making the report's analysis of the remaining LAUSD ineffective.
"It would trigger a major domino effect," Cortines said. "People in all parts of the city would be trying to form school districts."
FREE's secession proposal is one of half a dozen, including breakaway efforts in the Eastside and Harbor areas. The state is also reviewing a plan by the city of Carson to split from LAUSD and form an 18,000-student school district.
The efforts show a mounting support for breaking up LAUSD, said Richard Close, chairman of Valley VOTE, the group behind the effort to sever the Valley from the city of Los Angeles.
In November, Valley VOTE expanded its campaign to develop a comprehensive plan to split from LAUSD, but Close said Thursday those efforts are on hold until the county and state decide on FREE's plan.
"We do not want to adversely affect FREE's proposal," Close said.
Although complex, Close said the busing problem could be solved, perhaps by allowing students in the remaining LAUSD to attend schools in the two Valley districts.
"This issue should not be an obstacle," Close said. "What's important to remember is that people are disgusted with the [current] school system."