NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Napa Valley Unified School District’s board meeting room isn’t usually a nighttime hot spot, but it became one when more than 100 people turned up Thursday evening.
The crowd’s mission was clear — persuading the school board to postpone implementing local high school attendance boundaries to accommodate the 2010 opening of American Canyon High School.
Following a year’s worth of planning and town hall meetings in Napa and American Canyon, the school board was expected to finalize an attendance boundary plan Thursday night. A district-appointed committee known as the Program and Facilities Task Force recently recommended what is known as Plan D, one of at least 20 options considered since last year.
The plan is designed to balance both the number of students and the socio-economic status of the student bodies at Napa and Vintage high schools, dictating that some switch schools midway through their high school careers. Boundary changes will also reduce students’ ability to participate in open enrollment — the program allowing students to transfer to campuses outside their neighborhood boundaries.
Beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, Plan D would have students living northeast of Redwood Road and West Pueblo Avenue — and most residing east of Jefferson Street — attend Vintage High School. Students in south and west Napa would attend Napa High, and today’s seventh- and eighth-graders would be impacted.
But critics of Plan D say students living in the McPherson neighborhood would face negative repercussions because of the change.
Addressing the board in Spanish with the help of a translator, Lourdes Alaniz, a mother of two McPherson Elementary School students, said some parents and students in her neighborhood face considerable obstacles, including learning a new language, financial struggles and transportation challenges. Many of these parents, she said, would be unable to transport their children to Vintage, and Plan D would inconvenience these already struggling families.
Robb Felder, NVUSD board clerk, said the school district and its committee worked to find “the most balanced and equitable plan,” adding that the McPherson area was not intentionally targeted.
Members of Leadership Academy Youth Leaders in Action also addressed the school board Thursday evening, including Carla Gomez, a senior at Napa High School.
“Even though this (proposal) will not affect me,” she said, “it will affect my younger siblings.”
LAYLA members said Plan D would essentially “cut the McPherson neighborhood in half,” and asked the board to postpone adopting an attendance boundary plan for three weeks. The group also offered to host a town hall meeting to review the proposed borders and work with the district to revise them if possible.
For his part, NVUSD Board Vice-president Tom Kensok recommended extending the deadline.
“This is the crowd we’ve been looking for for months. … I am for delaying it a month or a month and a half and I also feel that we need to sit down with paper and pens, not microphones,” he said.
Board President Frances Ortiz-Chavez said the board would postpone adopting a plan and instead revisit the issue in about three weeks.
“We wanted (this input) back a year ago, which would have really helped. … In the end, we have to make the decision to draw the lines. … Please remember that no matter how we draw (them) someone’s not going to be happy because they’ll have to move schools,” she said.