Officials want say on school capacity issue Proposal is being prepared to respond to county executive

100% maximum sought

Limits on building proposed to relieve classroom crowding

April 19, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

County school officials are preparing to ask Executive John G. Gary to give them a greater say in approving new subdivisions, curb development where schools are crowded and look no further than the next school attendance area to relieve crowding.

The proposal, which the Board of Education is to vote on next month, is a response to Mr. Gary's controversial plan to approve new home construction until nearby schools are operating at as much as 120 percent of capacity. Mr. Gary said after he announced his plans in February that he would consider a school system counterproposal.

School officials, who have not completed their proposal, want capacity no higher than 100 percent when new subdivisions are considered for approval. They retained the county's idea of allowing developers of new subdivisions the option of enlarging an existing school or building a new one when the neighborhood school is full, but the similarity ends there.

"Yes, this would make the schools more of a partner in the process," said Robert C. Leib, the school system's director of business services.

County planners estimate there are nearly 26,000 lots in the county that have been approved for construction. School officials fear that much of that development could occur with little warning to them.

Limits on building

School officials want limits on building, especially on in-fill lots -- those approved for housing but that remain vacant. Because government approval rarely expires on such lots, an owner needs only a building permit to break ground.

County planning data show nearly 14,600 potential in-fill lots.

Rapid development of such lots led to crowding at High Point Elementary School in Pasadena, and school officials do not want that experience repeated, they said.

"You can't just issue building permits for everyone that walks in the door who owns a piece of property," school board President Joseph H. Foster said.

Mr. Gary backed off an initial proposal to allow new subdivisions as long as there was room for students at schools within a half-hour's bus ride. He said with more than 14,000 unused school seats, students could be bused to where places are available.

Expanded attendance areas

Instead, the school system is considering proposing to expand attendance areas so that students from new subdivisions would attend schools adjacent to the ones they would have expected to attend.

But if the county wants school officials to expand an attendance area for a new subdivision that would lead to redistricting, it would have to seek school system permission, under the board's proposal.

"The intent here is that they could not give it final approval until the board has approved a change to the attendance area," Mr. Foster said.

He said he realizes that could cause some delays in the subdivision permit process.

Despite their differences, school and county officials have managed to agree on a few things. They are going building-by-building to determine the capacity of all schools so that government and school planners are working from the same numbers. That should be finished in a few weeks.

"That's an enormous step forward," Mr. Leib said.

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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