SIMI DISTRICT OKS MERGER FOR PUPILS : SIMI DISTRICT OKS JUNIOR HIGH CHOICE.
Hoping to give students and parents some choice while creating more space on elementary campuses, the school board has approved a proposal to allow next year's sixth-graders to attend a junior high school campus.
In a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Simi Valley Unified School District board opted to allow students the choice of enrolling at a junior high or remaining at an elementary campus, despite opposition to the plan from a high proportion of parents who were surveyed last week.
The option is aimed at creating more space at elementary schools to help the district implement Gov. Pete Wilson's class-size reduction program while giving parents more educational choices for their children, said board member Carla Kurachi, who voted in favor of the proposal.
``I believe it's a win-win in terms of the parents and students having that choice, and for the district in alleviating some of the overcrowding at some of the elementary schools,'' she said Wednesday. ``That way, we'll have to purchase less portables.''
Board President Norm Walker and board member Caesar O. Julian voted against the proposal.
As part of the district's strategy, the board also directed staff to purchase portable buildings to help create the space needed to achieve a 20-to-1 pupil-to-teacher ratio in grades one through three.
Though school officials had estimated that the district would need up to 16 portables, Kurachi said she believes enough sixth-graders will enroll in junior highs that the district will need no more than 10 portables.
Last week, surveys were sent home with the district's fifth-graders to gauge parental interest in the sixth-grade option. There are 1,395 fifth-graders in the district; 1,037 surveys were returned.
According to the survey, parents of 45 percent of the total number of fifth-graders said they preferred that their sixth-graders remain at an elementary campus. In addition, 50 percent said they would not send their children to a pilot junior high school program.
But a significant minority - 21 percent - said they would be interested in enrolling their sixth-graders at a junior high campus.
Kurachi and board members Diane Collins and Janice DiFatta said at a special board meeting Friday that those numbers indicated sufficient interest to offer the program as an option in September. None, however, was interested in making it mandatory.
Walker said Wednesday that he opposed the proposal for several reasons. Among them are that younger children on elementary campuses will be deprived of opportunities to interact with sixth-graders - something he sees as valuable, he said.
Also, he doubted that parents would opt for the program in sufficient numbers to create significant space on elementary campuses. Further, he doesn't think sixth-graders are emotionally ready to interact with older students on a junior high campus.
``But I think it's important to say this: Although I oppose the move, I think I will do everything I can to make sure that . . . we have a program in the middle schools that is the best we can put together.''