2004-03-12 / Front Page

School district draws new boundaries

Four elementary schools affectedbowens@theacorn.com
By Billie Owens

Four elementary schools affected

School officials narrowly approved boundary changes at four Simi Valley elementary schools for the coming year.

The Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Education voted to change the attendance areas for Atherwood, Sycamore, Katherine and Santa Susana schools because of the impact of new housing developments.

Enrollment increases are projected at Atherwood and Katherine while decreases are projected at the other sites. The changes will allow the schools to accommodate growth without overcrowding Atherwood and Katherine, school officials said.

The boundary changes would apply only to new students, including siblings of those currently enrolled.

This fall, students within the following boundaries will attend Sycamore instead of Atherwood: Township Avenue on the north, Alamo Street on the south, Sequoia Avenue to the east and Sycamore Drive to the west.

Students within the following boundaries will attend Santa Susana instead of Katherine: Alamo Street on the north, State Highway 118 to the south, Yosemite Avenue on the east and Stearns Street to the west.

Before the board voted to approve the changes, trustee Carla Kurachi asked if a letter had been sent to parents in those areas, notifying them of possible boundary changes.

Communications breakdown

Mel Roop, assistant superintendent of facilities and property, replied that no such letter had been mailed. But Rebecca Wetzel, director of elementary education, told the board she was aware of information about the change being included in the Atherwood school newsletter.

Rupp said of the 60 students currently using busing to and from Atherwood, it is estimated that half would switch to parent-provided transportation. He said 16 students use bus service at Katherine School and that the boundary to the Santa Susana attendance area would increase the distance to school by one-third of a mile.

"I just like the proper notice given to parents," Kurachi said. "You are impacting families. Boundary changes are very emotional, highly charged issues. No notice has been given yet we’re all ready to make a decision."

Roop’s reply: "They’ll find out when they enroll."

Kurachi touched her forehead and laughed.

"It’s not an issue of voting for it or against it. It’s about public awareness," she said. "I think this should be brought back until we can notify parents."

Roop said the enrollment deadline was looming and the decision ought to be made now.

"I brought (parent notification) up at the last meeting," she said.

On a motion by Board President Steven Gould, the changes were approved 3-2. Citing concerns about the lack of parent notification, Kurachi and Clerk of the Board Greg Stratton voted no.

According to Roop’s report, the boundary changes will help the district minimize the cost of accommodating new students from the new housing projects. That is essential, the report says, because developer fees do not cover all of the costs.

The numbers are in

Enrollment projections show Atherwood’s enrollment without the boundary change would be 479 for the coming school year, up from 457. By the 2005-06 school year, the enrollment would jump to 694. With the approved change, the school’s enrollment would be 419 for next year and 640 the year thereafter.

Sycamore has 406 students and is expected to gain 55 students for 2004-05 with the boundary change. Enrollment for 2005-06 would be 454, up from 400 that year without the change.

Katherine School’s attendance projection without the boundary change is an increase from 514 to 685 next year. With the change, the enrollment is actually slightly less at 672. For the following year, 2005-06, Katherine’s enrollment is projected to be 663 with the boundaries moved and 681 without.

The Big Sky project, which will impact Atherwood, will have 771 single-family homes. The Parker Ranch project that will impact Katherine Elementary School will have 191 single-family homes and 324 apartments.

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