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GUHSD To Consider New Attendance Areas that Could Affect Thousands of East County Students

The Grossmont Union High School District is planning to change attendance boundary areas of its nine comprehensive East County high schools for incoming students.

Attendance areas in the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) could change as early as the 2012-2013 school year, possibly affecting thousands of students.

On Thursday night, the district’s boundary committee presented the governing board with two plans to consider for adoption. Board president Robert Shield said trustees would be reviewing the proposals over the next two months. 

“I’m sure we’ll have extensive discussions on this issue,” he said.

Both plans would affect the existing nine schools under control of the GUHSD, including Grossmont High School (GHS) in La Mesa, Monte Vista and Mount Miguel high schools in Spring Valley, Santana and West Hills high schools in Santee and El Capitan High School in Lakeside.

In both proposals, many students who live in the area of El Cajon Valley High School would be assigned to Santana High School. Some Santana students would be assigned to attend West Hills High School. Steele Canyon High School in Rancho San Diego and Helix Charter High School in La Mesa were not included in the proposals because they are independent charter schools with their own school boards.

It is the job of the Boundary Committee to study the current district boundaries, which were established in 2000, and to make recommendations that would address demographic shifts in student populations and the possible addition of a new high school in Alpine.

There are disparities in student enrollment throughout the East County district. Four schools―Santana, Mount Miguel, Monte Vista and El Capitan―are below the 2,000-student average recommended by the committee.  Santana’s enrollment during the past decade went down by 24 percent to 1,503 students, the lowest in the district. El Cajon Valley’s enrollment rose by 26 percent during that period to 2,283 students. GHS and Granite Hills High School in El Cajon are well above average, with  2,609 students and 2,751 students respectively―the highest in the district.

The committee recommended that current students in the district should not be required to change schools once new attendance areas are established. The plans presented to the board would affect nearly 3,000 students who are not yet enrolled in district schools, however.

The key difference between the two proposals presented involves the area of Alpine. One plan includes boundaries for a new high school in Alpine; the other does not. The proposal that does not include an Alpine school would result in a 24 percent increase in the number of students eligible to receive school transportation. The proposal that includes an Alpine school with the capacity for about 1,000 students would result in a 2.7 percent decline in the number of students eligible for school transportation.

Doug Deane, chairman of the boundary committee, said the addition of a new high school in Alpine could bring up to 480 new students to the GUHSD. The majority would be students who attend Steele Canyon and private schools in the Alpine area. The board has been debating for months whether to delay construction of an Alpine school for financial reasons, which is the why the committee drew a plan that did not include the controversial project. 

On Thursday the board voted 4 to 1 to pass a resolution that requires state funding per pupil to be restored to 2008 levels before the district could “consider resumption of the construction process.”  Trustee Priscilla Schreiber voted against the resolution, which was introduced by Shield.

In a separate vote, the board voted 3 to 2 to eliminate language from the resolution that would have stopped the district from submitting the design plans for the new school to the state for review in September. Dozens of Alpine, Blossom Valley and Harbison Canyon residents attended the meeting and spoke out against the resolution, which several speakers said was meant to delay the project indefinitely. The district set aside $65 million in bond construction money approved by East County voters to build the school, but officials worry about having the necessary funds to operate it.

Some of the protesters said they would consider not sending their children to district schools, or would push to separate Alpine from the GUHSD.

“They have demonstrated their bad faith,” said Sal Casamassima of Alpine about the board. “We’re done with these guys.”

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