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Acton split on Measure CF, growth

Posted: November 7, 2008 9:08 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Denise Hunt walks out of Vasquez High School after dropping off a few items for her son Friday afternoon. Parents are divided over whether or not the school should build a permanent campus to replace the portable buildings.

 
"It's about time this community takes care of its children," said Donna Durando, parent of a Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District student.

Durando's words came days after Acton residents voted on Measure CF, a $13 million dollar bond to construct a permanent school building at Vasquez High School.

The bond is passing 55.1 percent (2,984 votes) to 44.9 percent (2,432 votes) as of 4:14 p.m. Friday. However, the parties to celebrate the bond's passing aren't planned yet. It takes 55 percent of the vote to pass a bond measure.

"We're waiting," said Rosemary Oppenheim, Vasquez High's principal.

The razor-thin margin is holding up, but the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters reported 615,997 votes uncounted countywide as of 1:20 p.m. Friday. The registrar will report a new vote tally at 5 p.m. Tuesday, spokesman George Miranda said. The election won't be certified until Dec. 2, he said.

The 552-vote cushion in favor of Measure CF is reason for optimism, said Denise Hunt, parent of a Vasquez High student. Her son will never enjoy the benefits of the new school building, but all kids in Acton deserve better, she said.

"Just look at it," Hunt said pointing at the campus from the Vasquez parking lot Friday. "You name it, we need it. It's a haphazard school with a gym we can't use," she said.

The Vasquez High campus is a collection of portables designed as a temporary campus in 1999, said Mark Distaso, school board president. The school board asked the community to support a bond measure in 2002 to pay for a permanent high school and renovate other school buildings, Distaso said. It failed and so did three more bonds. The most recent failed by four percentage points in April.

"People want to keep our town rural. If we have something nice, more people will want to come here," Hunt said.

Other parents echoed the sentiment of a split between parents concerned about education and older residents trying to protect the small town.

"They fight everything," said Ann Brink, parent of a Vasquez High student. Brink, 43, said many residents are anti-growth. "The community thinks building a school will attract more people and more business and we'll lose our rural identity, but that's not true."

The vote has more consequences beyond Vasquez high constructing a school building. A strong movement within the community to deunify the district will gain steam if the bond measure fails, said Ron Bird, school board vice president. That would send Acton-Agua Dulce students back to Antelope Valley Unified School District high schools, he said.

Prior to 1993, Acton-Agua Dulce district student attended school locally through lower grades but went to high school in Palmdale, Distaso said.

Bird opposed the bond because he wants to see money spread around to other schools in the district in need of repair.

He isn't alone.

High Desert School needs grass on its fields, and many of the district buildings need repair. But she is content to start with the high school.

Without a permanent school building the space between portables is storage for weight-lifting benches and barbecue grills. There is no protection for this equipment from the elements.

But more than equipment gets exposed, Hunt said.

"We don't have a cafeteria. The kids sit out in the wind and the rain during the winter to eat," Hunt said.
Brink agreed.

"The kids deserve better. They need a permanent building like the rest of the kids across California and the United States," Brink said.

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