Two counties' schools meet to work out kinks

April 07, 2003 12:00 am

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

Call it a case of growing pains.

Don Pedro, a community sliced by county lines, is experiencing rapid growth.

More families mean more kids, and the area's small schools — one in Tuolumne County and one in Mariposa County — are bulging at a time when the state budget isn't offering any relief.

In an effort to best serve students in both counties, Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District and Mariposa County Unified School District trustees hunkered down late last week for a long discussion on how to make things work.

Lake Don Pedro Elementary School in Mariposa County stopped accepting students from Tuolumne County at the beginning of the school year because it simply couldn't hold any more.

These kids are now being bused to Tenaya Elementary School in Groveland — an hour's drive away — to the displeasure of many parents.

BOF-GUSD used to have a neighborhood agreement with Mariposa County, allowing students to freely cross the county line — Tuolumne County kids could go to Lake Don Pedro Elementary and Mariposa County kids could go to Don Pedro High School in Tuolumne County. About 30 Mariposa County kids now attend Don Pedro High.

But when the agreement came up for renewal this year, BOF trustees saw that for the first time in 15 years, the language had been changed.

Mariposa school trustees asked that BOF pay a fee for each special education student being educated in Mariposa.

Special education students countywide were encroaching on Mariposa County's general fund by $309,000, trustees said. They said Tuolumne County should pay its share of the cost of educating those kids.

But BOF felt Mariposa's requirements were "inappropriate," Trustee Gloria Marler said.

Mariposa trustees said they were only asking for help in serving Tuolumne County kids.

However, Mariposa County has never provided classrooms for the 30 of its students who attend Don Pedro High, Marler reminded trustees.