Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lake Forest Elementary School Closing It's Doors

La Tierra Elementary provided a valuable service to the local community of Lake Forest, California in that it provided a top quality elementary education for local children between pre-school and 6 grade, and it was one of only 2 schools in the area that offered pre-school classes for children with special needs. La Tierra's staff offered outstanding expertise particularly to young children with autism spectrum disorder.

Thanks to the inability of elected leaders in the state to pass a balanced budget, and due to the now state-wide financial crisis, La Tierra's services to Orange County and Lake Forest will soon be gone.

So what are Lake Forest Parents parents supposed to do? Well, La Tierra students will be funneled to another school to balloon the classes sizes there. Parents of new arrival children will either need to look to other elementary schools to see if they have room for their kids, and/or determine whether they have the capability to accomodate children of special needs.

Paying for private pre-school services is of course expensive and not always offering accomodations to children with special needs.

So how is this development even relevant to the downturn in the Orange County housing market?

Well, it's relevant in the sense that one of the obvious key decision factors faced by prospective home buyers (particularly families) are the local services and performance levels of local schools.

Local realtors have had it on their 3x5 sales cue cards for years that the local schools in Lake Forest, California are "excellent". And, all things considered, including California's abhorrent 46th ranking in the nation in terms of elementary public school effectiveness (just ahead of Mississippi, Alabama and Mississippi thank you very much!), the realtors have been right.

La Tierra Elementary even won a California Distinguished School Award. It had a 2007 API (Academic Performance Index) of 850, on a 200-1000 index scale.

Not a big school. Only 220 students. But it was a very important little school for the community. And it was a performer. A solid performer.

The closing of La Tierra is likely only the beginning. The voting off of other schools by the Saddleback Unified School Board will continue on into 2009. They don't have a choice.

Other elementary schools in the Lake Forest area such as Santiago Elementary and O'Neill Elementary are on the proverbial "chopping block" as well, though O'Neill Elementary appears to have earned a temporary reprieve from the board.

Parents and local taxpayers do have the opportunity to attend school board meetings and express their support for Lake Forest schools, and judging from the O'Neill verdict last week, upcoming schoolboard meetings should be very interesting to observe.

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