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CUSD changes district map, eliminates pocket boundaries

A number of Claremont families can breathe easier knowing that, beyond a doubt, their children will attend their neighborhood school.

At the February 18 school board meeting, Superintendent Jim Elsasser asked the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education to consider a proposal to rezone the boundaries of the district’s elementary schools.

The proposal, presented by Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Mike Bateman, aimed to eliminate the so-called pocket boundaries in the existing boundary map.

The pocket boundaries date back to the days when, decades ago, the district attempted to combat de facto school segregation by busing students to schools in different neighborhoods. The district no longer engages in busing, but pockets of north Claremont remain where students are, seemingly arbitrarily, funneled into schools situated southward.

“We’ve had people discuss it over the years, asking why the boundaries are not continuous, why they’re broken up,” Mr. Bateman said. 

A small swath of land near Sumner Elementary School has long been designated a feeder area for Vista del Valle. Kids in an area near Chaparral have long been shunted to Mountain View Elementary School. And a certain number of residents living close to Condit Elementary School have been designated as Sumner families.

Many parents like the idea of their child attending a school within walking distance from their home. As a result, the pocket boundaries yield 130 requests each year for intradistrict transfers, according to Mr. Bateman.

Sixty-nine of these are students who fall into the Mountain View pocket and want to attend Chaparral. Sixty-three students who fall into the Sumner pocket apply to attend Condit. And about three families living in the Vista del Valle pocket routinely apply to attend Sumner. 

CUSD hasn’t had to deny any of these intradistrict requests, Mr. Bateman noted. In fact, it is considered one of the district’s strengths that, space permitting, Claremont families can get their children into any one of the city’s eight elementary schools that best suits their needs.

Claremont families take advantage of the policy en masse, and those living in the pocket boundaries are no exception. Of the kids living in the Mountain View pocket, 22 kids attend Condit, 12 attend Mountain View, three attend Sumner and 19 go to Sycamore, along with the 69 students who have opted for Chaparral.

In the Sumner pocket, 26 attend Chaparral, 23 attend Sumner and six go to Sycamore, along with the 63 who attend Condit. And in the Vista pocket, 1 child attends Chaparral, and four attend Condit, along with the four that go to Sumner.

While, again, no one has been denied their intradistrict transfer, the pocket boundaries have been a source of ongoing stress for a small but significant number of CUSD families. Parents have reported feeling worried each year that their child may find themselves bumped from their school, according to Mr. Bateman. 

It seemed like the proverbial no-brainer for the district to redraw its boundary maps to eliminate pocket boundaries and, as Mr. Bateman described it, “just make it a whole lot easier.” Still, CUSD pursued its general policy of involving community stakeholders with district decisions.

Mr. Bateman invited all of the affected families to an informational meeting held on February 11. While no one attended, he said he got a few phone calls regarding the proposed changes indicated that the community supports the rezoning.

The board voted unanimously to redraw CUSD boundaries, a decision which Mr. Bateman considers sound. “We’ll save about 130 pieces of paper a year and save families a lot of angst,” he said.

The administrator said there is no expectation that the rezoning will change the population at any Claremont school significantly. As a result, it’s unlikely the rezoning will alter the number of transfers accepted at a site.

If, however, a school were to grow in size until it couldn’t afford the current number of transfers, it would be inter-district transfers who would first be told there is no room. Priority status is always given to students living in Claremont, Mr. Bateman emphasized.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com