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Attendance boundaries drawn for Merced's third high school

Attendance boundaries have been established for the new El Capitan High School in North Merced. The $87 million school is due to open in fall 2013 with 1,700 to 2,000 students.

Merced Union High School District trustees earlier this month approved the recommendations of a 12-member boundary committee, which met twice to ponder six options, settling on what is called Scenario No. 5.

Since only about 640 students live north of Yosemite Avenue, many of the future El Capitan High students will come from South Merced. During boundary discussion it was decided that there will be little busing for Merced High School students who live within walking distance of the West Olive Avenue campus.

District Superintendent Scott Scambray said the boundary committee, which met twice in November, did a good job and came up with a useful solution to distributing students to the three high school campuses in Merced that will be open in two years' time.

Students who live within 2½ miles of a high school won't be bused, according to district policy, unless they live on the other side of a significant barrier, such as Highways 59 or 99 or railroad tracks, seen as major safety issues.

Scenario No. 5 has students living north of Yosemite Avenue and west of Highway 59 on the north side of Highway 99 attending El Capitan High School. The option also includes much of the area west of Highway 59 on the south side of Highway 99.

Michael Belluomini, the district's director of facilities planning, said the El Capitan attendance boundary will draw from the area south of Highway 99, and students would be bused to either Golden Valley High School or El Capitan.

Trustee Ida Johnson was a member of the boundary committee. She said the committee had excellent community representation and members of the Southeast Asian community were included at the group's second session.

Belluomini said trustees directed that enrollment sizes be kept similar for each campus and differences of less than 10 percent be maintained for ethnic groups. The board also wanted transportation costs and travel times to be minimized while preserving student safety.

"They (committee) came up with a good solution," Scambray said. "The lines are pretty clear. Some kids will be bused from South Merced."

Johnson said the committee originally had six possible boundary plans. She said the committee "worked out a lot of things" and it was a tidy process. Each new campus should house between 1,700 and 1,800 students.

The district is trying to create a magnet program at each school site. Buhach Colony High School in Atwater already has an engineering academy, and the process is still being determined about other campus specialties and how students will apply to attend these campuses, Johnson said.

Jorge Arteaga, the district's information technology director, said he spent most of the current semester presenting boundary options, starting with outside computer software mapping and plans that were refined by the local committee.

In a presentation to the board, Belluomini said the committee rejected options that would bus students living close to Merced High School that weren't ethnically balanced. An option that would see students between Highway 59 and R Street bused to El Capitan High was rejected due to increased transportation costs.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at

(209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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