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Crestview parents express concerns of school merger, budget short fall

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Concerned parents attended a town hall meeting with representatives from the Lompoc Unified School District at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Crestview Elementary School here.

The topic of concern was the upcoming merger of Los Padres Elementary School and Crestview in the upcoming school year.

Los Padres, located in the East Housing area of the base, will be closing after this school year following the demolition of the houses there. The demolition eliminated the need for the school since most of the families were moved to West Housing on the main part of base. Students currently attending Los Padres were allowed to finish out the school year there before moving to Crestview.

The addition of the Los Padres children is not the only planned change at Crestview. The district is also expanding the school to accommodate sixth-graders, as well as add to special education classes. This will raise the number of students from about 460 to more than 800.

This creates a large logistical issue for the faculty who must decide how to load and unload almost 400 more students before and after school in the already cramped parking lot.

"Our primary concern in this respect is the safety of the children," said Dr. Ken Faulk, the Crestview principal. "We are currently working with base officials to figure out how we are going to handle such a large increase in traffic in such a congested area.

"However, we really like to know the pulse of the community to help us in our decision making," he added.

The school is also looking to emplace 14 to 17 portable classrooms behind the current school structure.

"We've really put some time and consideration into the portable units we will be using," said Kristopher Andrews, a LUSD Board of Education member. "These are really top-notch units that I think our parents and faculty will be very pleased with."

However firm the district may have thought their plans were for Crestview's future, the California deficit may throw a wrench into the decision making process. The state is currently experiencing an estimated $16 billion shortfall. As a result, the state is looking to cut funding from various state-funded programs--education being one of those programs. The proposed worst-case scenario for LUSD is a budget cut of $2.8 million.

Rumors have begun to fill the halls of Crestview ever since the planned education budget cut was announced. Some of the rumors have included cutting school transportation, making Crestview a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and increasing the class size from an average of around 20 kids to 30 or 35.

"You're going to hear all kinds of rumors based on the ideas that have been thought up throughout the entire district," said Sue Schuyler, the president of the LUSD Board of Education, as she addressed the audience. "I can tell you that there is no program that will not be looked at very closely until we figure out how we will manage this cut. We have some very tough decisions to make, and while there are all kinds of ideas flying around right now, we have to take the time to look at them all."

The district may not know the final details of the budget cuts and how exactly they are going to manage them until May. However, they guarantee that the parents will be the first ones to know the decisions made that will effect their children.

"The second we know something, you'll know something," said Dr. Frank Lynch, the LUSD superintendent. "The children in this district are our main priority and we will do what is necessary to ensure they are in a safe and suitable learning environment.

"That being said, if the budget continues to fall, we will have to start looking at things to help us manage the situation," he added.

The next district board meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in the library at Cabrillo High School in Vandenberg Village, Calif. For more information on the California education budget and the proposed solutions for LUSD, visit www.lusd.org.