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LAUSD DELAYS ENLARGING POPULAR MAGNET PROGRAM.

Byline: Terri Hardy Daily News Staff Writer

Despite a waiting list of 27,000 for Los Angeles schools' popular magnet schools, the Board of Education voted Monday to delay opening nine new magnet campuses until the 1999-2000 school year.

Saying more time is needed for planning and preparation, the board voted 5-2 to postpone opening the schools, including two in the San Fernando Valley.

``I think it's a good idea. It makes more sense and gives (the district) time to prepare,'' said the board president, Julie Korenstein, whose district is in the Valley.

Before the vote, parents already were critical of the expansion plan, saying too few schools were envisioned, and they charged that Los Angeles Unified School District officials had not sought their opinions.

On Monday, they were further upset by the board's decision.

``There should be no more delay,'' said Loren Grossman, whose child attends San Jose Highly Gifted in Mission Hills, a magnet school. ``Parents weren't part of the original decision, and now this.'' The board got a memorandum late Friday from the office that runs magnet schools, asking for one more year.

Board Member David Tokofsky, who represents part of the Valley and voted against the extension, blamed politics for the delay.

``There was pressure from some parents. Some people were upset that the new list was not inclusive, and someone panicked. They decided just to pull it off the table,'' Tokofsky said. ``Now there will be 2,500 less seats next year (in the 1998-99 period), and that means everyone loses.''

Of those seats, 720 would have been in the Valley - 360 at each of the proposed new campuses.

While the majority of the board voted for the delay, several members chided the staff for not having the schools ready in time and for not including new options in applications sent to parents for their children's magnet entrance in 1998-99.

``You're several steps behind. It's a very popular program, and you should expand it,'' said board member Valerie Fields, who voted against the extension.

Theodore Alexander, assistant superintendent in the office that oversees magnet programs, said the staff could not have acted sooner because ``the decision process took four to five months.''

Of the $4.9 million Alexander set aside for expansion in the 1998-99 year, $3.6 million will be used for set-up costs. The remaining funds will be held over to the 1999-2000 school year, Alexander said.

Alexander told the board he was asking for the delay because some new facilities just could not be opened by autumn.

Scott Schmerelson, principal at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth, said he was never asked about his ability to create new seats quickly in Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability magnet programs.

``We could have done it, but the delay will make things easier,'' Schmerelson said.

Magnet programs began for voluntary racial and ethnic integration geared to certain specialties, such as humanities or math-science. But throughout the years they have exploded in popularity because of the quality of education provided.

Many parents see magnet programs as the only viable educational option in the Los Angeles Unified School District for their children, especially gifted students.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 2, 1998
Words:527
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