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Parents praise vote to shuffle grade setups

School board's decision wasn't the shake-up some sought, but they count it as progress.

March 15, 2007|By Michael Miller

Parents and administrators on Wednesday applauded the Newport-Mesa school board's decision to adjust grade levels in Costa Mesa schools, even while the schools' future configurations remained up in the air.

The board voted, 5-2, Tuesday to offer parents the choice to send their children to the fourth grade at College Park, Paularino and Sonora elementary schools, each of which currently stops at the third grade. Under the proposed system, parents could keep their children at the neighborhood sites or move them on to Davis Elementary School, which offers fourth- through sixth-grade classes.

The vote came after a year of contention in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, when a group of parents sought to extend their schools through the upper grades while turning Davis into a middle school or a magnet kindergarten-through-eighth-grade site.

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On Tuesday, the district and parents got an answer, and it cut right down the middle — a possibility of one more grade at the three schools, with everything else to be decided later.

That was fine with Brian Valles, the Sonora parent who launched the petition drive a year ago to encourage a reconfiguration of central Costa Mesa schools. He praised the board for turning down the district's recommendation to retain the lineup of the Costa Mesa Zone, which consists of five elementary schools and Costa Mesa High School.

"I was impressed by the integrity of the school board to go against the recommendation of the staff," Valles said. "I think everybody knew that it was the right thing to do, and I'm pleased with the results."

Paularino PTA President Dena Fisher also praised the board's decision.

"Obviously, there are some parents that like Davis and some that like keeping their kids at the local school, so I think it's a good idea," she said.

Under the proposed system, College Park, Paularino and Sonora would determine how many families wanted to retain their children for the fourth grade, and the district would divert teachers if there was sufficient demand. Sonora Principal Christine Anderson and Davis Principal Cheryl Beck both said they would support the idea.

"You just do a little shuffling," Anderson said. "I don't think it's difficult or easy. When you're dealing with kids and parents and teachers, there's always lots of things to consider and changes of heart. We do what we can to make it work."

At Tuesday's board meeting, teachers union President Jim Rogers criticized the district's three proposed scenarios for reconfiguring Costa Mesa schools — each of which would cost between $800,000 and $5 million. The board ended up adopting none of the scenarios, and it was unclear how much the program they voted on would cost.

Even still, Sonora parent and Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Katrina Foley said, money shouldn't be an issue with school reconfiguration.

"I do think it can happen," she said. "We're not going to see much expenditure, at least in this budget cycle. It's not $800,000 this year or $2.4 million this year. It's over time. And over time, things change."

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