Feeder school boundary for middle schools redrawn

Reported+on+January+31%2C+2014

Infographic by Esther Cho

Reported on January 31, 2014

Amber Buhagiar and Jasmine Santos

Crowded classrooms are problematic for both students and teachers and are apparently not uncommon at Christa McAuliffe Middle School. As a solution to the overcrowding at Christa McAuliffe, the Board proposed to redraw the boundaries for both Delta Sierra and Christa McAuliffe so that the new feeder elementary schools for Delta Sierra would include Sutherland and Parklane. However, many parents of students attending those schools are against the change.

The initial decision to approve the redrawing of boundaries of Delta Sierra Middle School caused an uproar when some implied that Delta Sierra is a “ghetto” school because many of the students who attend live at or below the poverty line.

Parents were also concerned about having their children at two different middle schools.

“Half the families will have had kids at Christa McAuliffe and half at Delta Sierra,” parent Lashawnda Karey said. “It will create a hot mess.”

Some parents claimed that their children deserved to go to Christa McAuliffe because of the Mello-Roos taxes paid to have the school be built. Mello-Roos is a special tax paid by homeowners that is used to finance improvements of schools, roads, libraries, police and fire protection services, or ambulance services. Other parents were concerned about the disparity between the two campuses.

According to a report run on Jan. 31, 2014, for the first semester only, Delta Sierra had 185 incidents of misbehavior leading to suspensions, 92 students were suspended, and a total of 359.3 days of suspension were served. Christa McAuliffe, on the other hand, had 105 incidents leading to suspensions, 59 students suspended, and a total of 273.5 days of suspension were served.

Looking at freshman GPAs from the first semester, 42 percent of the top 26 students of BC’s freshman class attended Christa McAuliffe and 19 percent attended Delta Sierra. Thirty-five percent of the students attended Elkhorn, although it is important to note that Elkhorn’s student population is much smaller. Of the 26 lowest performing students, 58 percent attended Delta Sierra and 23 percent attended Christa McAuliffe.

“All the pre-AP classes available at Christa helped me prepare for the rigorous high school courses I wanted to take my freshman year,” senior Jessica Miller said.

Unlike Christa McAuliffe, Delta Sierra is a Title I school. The Title I program mandates the U.S. Department of Education to disburse extra funding to designated schools in order to meet the needs of at-risk or low-income students.

In addition, Delta Sierra receives supplemental funding as part of the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA). This law requires a school to keep class sizes small to maximize quality learning and instruction. QEIA also targets schools that have higher percentages of low income, minority, and English learning students.

There is a possibility that Delta Sierra will lose the funding because the boundaries will make the class sizes bigger than the required 25 students or fewer per classroom. Although Title I money will be a source of revenue, some are worried that the number of programs offered at Delta Sierra will be significantly reduced because the expenses will exceed its budget.

Parents stress the difference in quality of education of the two middle schools. However, the LUSD board insists that there is no difference.

In response to the parents’ concerns, proponents of the change are adamant in ensuring the equality of educational opportunities in the two middle schools.

“The staff at Delta Sierra builds on the success of math,” LUSD board member Bonnie Cassel said. “They have a MESA program and they want to add STEM.” STEM academies focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In fact, Cassel noted at the district meeting that Delta Sierra was the highest scoring school in the district based on the third quarter benchmark scores in Geometry and Algebra I. However, parents explained that the high test scores are due in part to the small number of students in each class in comparison to the number of students at Christa McAuliffe.

Board members also discussed creating a magnet school at Delta Sierra. The “gifted” label would attract parents to the school and make the prospect of students attending Delta Sierra appealing.

Others suggested that certain elementary schools, like Podesta Ranch Elementary, could become  K-8 schools to accommodate the students from Parklane and Sutherland.

Despite all the suggestions, the decision was finalized at the district board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Students from Parklane and Sutherland will begin attending Delta Sierra fall 2014.

“Delta Sierra is a beautiful school,” Cassel said. “Students will receive the excellent education they so deserve, but with the room.”