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Heated TVUSD Boundary Debate culminates in Vote as Temecula Valley Unified School District rules on school boundaries

Crowne Hill resident Shari Franklin and her daughter pass out stickers before the start of the Temecula Valley Unified School District board meeting, March 18, 2014 at Temecula Middle School. Franklin and other parents voiced concerns about school attendance boundaries. Photo/Maggie Avants

Crowne Hill resident Shari Franklin and her daughter pass out stickers before the start of the Temecula Valley Unified School District board meeting, March 18, 2014 at Temecula Middle School. Franklin and other parents voiced concerns about school attendance boundaries. Photo/Maggie Avants

By Maggie Avants

Temecula, CA–Will your newest cubs be in the Wolfpack? A Golden Bear? Or a Puma? Which high school to call home has been a lingering question for many families of the Temecula Valley Unified School District, but was answered Tuesday night when school board members voted to adjust attendance boundaries—with some compromises.

On Tuesday March 18, an audience of about 100 listened as the TVUSD board voted on 18 proposed boundary shifts, perhaps the most concerning of which will affect the Crowne Hill neighborhood.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education is seated before the start of the March 18, 2014 meeting at Temecula Middle School. Photo/Maggie Avants

The Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education is seated before the start of the March 18, 2014 meeting at Temecula Middle School. Photo/Maggie Avants

The board voted 3-1, with Allen Pulsipher dissenting, and Vincent O’Neal absent, to change the middle and high schools that Crowne Hill Elementary students currently feed into—Vail Ranch Middle and Great Oak High—to Temecula Middle and Temecula Valley High. With that vote, however, the board agreed to allow affected students currently in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades to still attend Great Oak on intra-district transfers.

“Under the circumstances it was probably the best solution we could get to,” TVUSD Superintendent Tim Ritter told reporters following the meeting that was held at Temecula Middle School.

He said the vote was “a compromise.”

“It was probably a great move in keeping our community feeling like they’ve been heard,” Ritter said following the meeting. “The board demonstrated today that they did listen.”

The board began considering boundary changes in October 2013 in an effort to: align elementary, middle and high school attendance areas; plan ahead for new populations; equalize space among schools; minimize distance to schools; and spread density of lower socio-economic status populations.

In January, a series of community meetings began. Many parents attended and spoke out against the changes when it was learned that their younger children may not attend the same middle and high schools as their older siblings.

About 100 people attended the meeting. Photo/Maggie Avants

About 100 people attended the meeting. Photo/Maggie Avants

In addition, some parents said they bought their homes in Crowne Hill at a higher price than other Temecula neighborhoods, with the understanding their children would attend Great Oak High School.

Following Tuesday night’s meeting, Crowne Hill resident Shari Franklin said that although her eighth-grader will still need a transfer to attend Great Oak in the fall, she felt like the board took their concerns into consideration.

“This is as good as it gets,” Franklin said. “I think they listened.”

Franklin and other parents described a feeling of being blindsided by the changes when they were proposed in January.

“It’s left us in a state of confusion for months,” Franklin said.

Students also felt that way.

“It’s been stressful, I’ve been worried about it,” said Sam Hostetter, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who lives in Crowne Hill and up until Tuesday night did not know whether she would be attending Great Oak or Temecula Valley as a freshman.

Sam Hostetter, 14, thanks TVUSD Superintendent Tim Ritter for "listening" to hers and others concerns about changes to school attendance boundaries. Photo/Maggie Avants

Sam Hostetter, 14, thanks TVUSD Superintendent Tim Ritter for “listening” to hers and others concerns about changes to school attendance boundaries. Photo/Maggie Avants

Sam thanked Ritter and shook his hand as he assured her parents that as long they put in for the transfer by April 11, she could attend Great Oak as she had planned.

According to Ritter, all boundary changes approved Tuesday will be effective for the 2014-2015 school year, with the “phasing-in” changes for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders effective through the 2016-2017 school year.

“Phasing would be, in essence, a transfer,” Ritter said.

Of the 18 boundary realignments that had been proposed, two were not approved Tuesday: one that would have shifted elementary students from Wolf Creek and whom currently attend Temecula Luiseno Elementary to Redhawk Elementary; another that would have placed some students from Tony Tobin Elementary to Jackson Elementary.

With the exception of Vintage Hills, Temecula, and Jackson Middle Schools, which will feed into two separate middle and high schools, Ritter said all elementary school students will now stay with the same cohorts throughout their middle- and high-schools years.

“Now we have consolidated so students will be able to stay with their social groups,” Ritter said.

A realignment that was approved and appeared to make sense to most was shifting students who live in French Valley to Chaparral High instead of their current designated school of Temecula Valley High.

Next up, the board will tackle a revision to the district’s transfer policy, which many parents say is the crux of the problem and is why there are uneven attendance numbers.

“The huge problem is the transfers and the grandfathered transfers,” said parent Beatrice Hostetter.

 She and others had urged the board to redo the transfer policy before taking on the boundaries.

Great Oak High remains at capacity, with more than three-thousand students, according to district officials, while Temecula Valley High has the least number of students among the district’s three comprehensive high schools.

Maggie Avants is currently a freelance journalist, whose work also appears in Valley Business Journal. Previously, she worked as an editor of Murrieta and Temecula Patch local news websites from December 2010 through January 2014. Before that, she was on the editorial staff of Southwest Riverside News Network. Maggie has resided in Murrieta since 2004 with her husband and two daughters. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and nature. She also volunteers at a local church. 

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About Ashley Ludwig

Ashley Ludwig is an Editor for Patch News, Orange County and Los Angeles. She is also an inspirational romantic suspense author.

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