Districts in battle for students

San Luis Coastal Unified School District is contesting a county committee’s September decision to continue sending Cayucos high school students to Cambria.

Some Cayucos parents filed a petition this year to get the town’s high school territory transferred to San Luis Coastal so students could go to Morro Bay High School rather than Coast Union High School.

Cayucos has an elementary school district but no high school.

The county Committee on School District Organization denied the petition Oct. 10; those who had filed the petition filed an appeal Oct. 30.

If the petition ultimately prevails, according to Coast Unified School District officials, the transfer would knock a $1.2 million hole in the district’s $9.5 million annual budget and could trigger changes as dramatic as laying off a dozen teachers and closing the town’s only middle school.

Rick Robinett, San Luis Coastal’s assistant superintendent, said his board also decided to file an appeal “based on protecting our own interests” because there are “still some fundamental fairness issues, and there might be other solutions.”

One sticking point, in San Luis Coastal’s opinion, was the legal advice and committee conclusion that Cambria voters would have to vote on the transfer before it became final — and that a majority of those voters would have to approve it.

“There just wasn’t enough consideration given to the election aspect,” Robinett said. “We just want the state board to take a look at the facts … a second look.”

Coast Union trustee Victoria Dandurand said at a meeting Nov. 15 some sort of compromise “would be in the best interest” of all concerned, and she asked whether San Luis Coastal would be “open to remuneration” for transferred students.

However, Coast Union trustee Robert Gong said there are legal issues in “giving property tax money from one district to another, and Coast Union Superintendent Chris Adams said his district’s counsel has advised that it should not draft an agreement with San Luis Coastal until the appeals have been addressed.

The state is not likely to rule on the appeals until summer, according to Julian Crocker, county superintendent of schools.