School Board Weighs Kindergarten Additions, New Panel Rules

Two elementary schools are vying to receive an extra class to meet rising demand, and citizen advisory committees face new guidelines.

With a rising number of kindergarten students, The Culver City Unified School District board of education grappled with ways to meet the increased demand  at its meeting Tuesday. Also on the board's agenda were planning new rules for several citizen advisory committees that help the district function.

Every district school was close to full or slightly over capacity this last year, a general concern of the board. For two schools in particular, La Ballona Elementary School and Farragut Elementary School, the need for an additional  kindergarten class was obvious, said Drew Sotello, director of pupil services.

Due to a recent decision to allow out-of-district students who meet the minimum permit requirements to continue attending Culver City schools, the discussion turned to which elementary school would benefit from an additional class.

Parent Robert Gray said Farragut Elementary School should gain the extra kindergarten class because the campus is in particularly high demand.

"We need to have enough classes. If there is enrollment, there is room. It's not in our policies to act any other way," Gray said. "If there are enough kids for a class at Farragut, they get the class."

CCUSD clerk Karlo Silbiger disagreed with Gray's logic, countering that La Ballona Elementary School is currently seven students over the 22-student cap for kindergarten classes. But 15 more students are within district limits and are guaranteed enrollment for the school.

That would give the school enough for a class, and priority as a result.

Establishing the extra kindergarten class at Farragut would "set us up for disaster," Silbiger said.

Sotello said Farragut has 25 kindergarten students slated for the fall, but that final numbers won't be available until next month. Once the enrollment total is known, the district will decide which school would be better served by the additional class.

Enrollment for the district's elementary schools opens Aug. 23 after being closed for a summer break.

Turning to other matters Tuesday, the board also discussed new rules for school citizen advisory committees in an effort to increase the level of communication between them and the public.

On the table for discussion were lengths of term for service on the panels and making the committees subject to the Brown Act's public disclosure requirement, which would require them to grant public access to their meetings and allow the public to speak.

Silbiger listed several proposed changes to the way that the committees run, including posting the meeting agenda online 72 hours in advance, limiting the number of parents on boards and requiring the panels to furnish the district with quarterly updates.

The term limits issue is an important one for accountability, he argued. "I don't like the idea of serving the committee for life," Silbiger said.

The board is set to decide on term limits at next month's meeting. No representatives from the citizen panels were present to discuss the issues Tuesday night.

Although the board agreed to limit parent numbers and set specific meeting times, universal rules would be a mistake, CCUSD trustee Katherine Paspalis said.

"They target different groups of people, and the committee should determine meeting times and other needs accordingly," she said.

On Tuesday, the board also created an Environmental Sustainability Committee, which was enthusiastically approved.

"This is a special committee with special interests and they will have special qualifications," said CCUSD board President Steven Gourley.

He would like the panel to encourage CCUSD to achieve ambitious green goals.

"I'm looking for an attack team," Gourley said.


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