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Student Shift Boundary Lines Change Proposed
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A new boundary line to determine whether elementary students will attend the in-town Dent Elementary or the rural Van Allen Elementary has been proposed by an ad hoc committee and recommended to the Escalon Unified School District Board.

The recommendation came at the board's Jan. 18 meeting.

"They recommended unanimously that the East-West boundary between Dent and Van Allen be the McHenry Avenue-Escalon-Bellota Road line," said District Superintendent Ron Costa. "Right now it's (boundary) chopped up, it's Brennan Road primarily, but some areas east of Brennan still go to Van Allen. This will make it now just a straight line."

Northern and southern boundaries for the two campuses will remain the same, but the new line will see all students living west of McHenry and Escalon-Bellota go to Van Allen, while those living east of the McHenry-Escalon-Bellota corridor will be in the Dent Elementary boundaries.

Board members accepted the recommendation but took no action on it at their January meeting, directing Costa to put it on the agenda for possible action at the next regular session, Tuesday, Feb. 8.

"There were some positives and some concerns," Costa said of comment on the proposed boundary change, which is designed to more evenly distribute students between the two campuses. Van Allen has room for more students, while Dent is overcrowded.

"A lot of the concerns dealt with people having to move their children," Costa said, adding that it's an understandable concern. "Many preferred to stay at the school they're at."

The high volume of traffic on Highway 120 near the Van Allen campus was also a concern raised by parents whose children will be shifted to that school.

The move makes sense for the district in terms of distributing students, said Costa, utilizing available resources and getting back to having a full time principal at the rural site. Right now, Scott Ferreira is splitting his time, serving half at Van Allen and half at Dent. The Van Allen position would again be considered a full time post and the rural school would also likely have more than one teacher per grade level in some grades to account for the influx of students.

At Dent, Costa said there could be consolidation into one centralized office, as opposed to having an office both at the primary and elementary sites on the Yosemite Avenue campus.

"Really, I think it's going to be beneficial," Costa said of the boundary change.

Projected shifts would bring the Van Allen enrollment up to the low 300s from the current 160 student level, Costa added, and Dent would drop to the low 600s from its current enrollment of 760.

If approved by the school board as proposed by the study committee, the change would take effect for the start of the 2011-2012 school year in August.

Committee members were Joel Adams, Jennifer Franzia, Rick Guevara, Jim Murray, Justina Percey and Michelle Sandoval, representing a cross section of residents from each school site. Previous meetings were hosted for public input and to outline the need for the boundary change, held at both Van Allen and Dent prior to the committee making its recommendation.

Adams served as primary presenter at the school board meeting, with additional comments regarding the study and recommendations offered by other members as well.

"I was very impressed with the committee," said Costa. "They took this responsibility very seriously. They worked very hard to get all the information, to get people's opinions, they worked hard to make a decision that would benefit the whole student body."