School district faces overcrowding

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Having faced budget challenges, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District now looks at filled to capacity classrooms.

By Sylvie Belmond/Staff Writer

While a new year dawns on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, overcrowding remains problematic for the district’s schools, which attract many interdistrict students.

“We’re more than at capacity,” said SMMUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

This year the district issued 2,800 permits for a school district that serves a total of 12,127 students. Malibu students make up 2,310 of that, but the number of interdistrict permits for Malibu was not available at press time.

In the coming years the district will take a look at the interdistrict permit policy in an effort to create space, said Deasy.

Walther Rosenthal, a member of the SMMUSD Financial Oversight Committee, said he would like to see the number of permits for students outside of the district reduced. However, he said this needs to be done in a manner that would maintain a racial and ethnic balance.

In planning for the future of the district Deasy said a strategic plan for the district is half way done. Its primary goal is to improve student achievement.

The plan provides a framework for bettering programs, management functions and fiscal operations and it will evaluate the district’s progress on a regular basis, said Deasy.

But the financial horizon is still uncertain. While the district managed to make ends meet in 2001, it is not sure what 2002 will bring. However, some Malibu residents want residents to take an active part in helping the schools financially.

“Things are uncertain for 2002 at the national, state and city levels,” said Rosenthal. “But income shortfalls do not need to affect children in Malibu,” he explained. “There is plenty of money in Malibu to give children the educational experience they deserve. We just have to face the fact that we need to privately make up for what the government does not do.”

Deirdre Roney, a district wide PTA member, agreed with Rosenthal. Roney’s primary goal for 2002 is to increase parent involvement in Malibu.

“Once you say to parents who would be able to send their children to private school that it would cost them $15,000 or so per year, they realize that if I ask for $1,000 per family, that’s a bargain,” said Roney.

This approach produced results at Webster Elementary School in 2001.

“We raised more than twice the money than has ever been raised before, in half the time,” said Roney. “Parents responded overwhelmingly.”

The school raised $220,000 in direct drive campaigns this year.

The funds were used for a new library, new computers, and teacher training, and art and music programs.