Northgate High parents turned in a petition Friday, setting the stage for what would be a massive change in attendance boundaries among the Acalanes, Mt. Diablo and Walnut Creek school districts.

Ruth Carver, leader of the Northgate Parents for Transfer, said she handed in 3,100 signatures to the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

"There's a big feeling of relief that we got it done," said Carver, who along with other supporters, has been canvassing Walnut Creek parks and schools for the past few months.

The group wants Mt. Diablo to give up its schools in Walnut Creek. Those schools would move into the Walnut Creek and Acalanes Union High school districts, with the possible exception of Eagle Peak Montessori Charter School.

Though Carver has supporters, opposition has also sprung up.

Parents in The Crossings neighborhood in Concord said they will fight the petition. Many Crossings parents bought their houses so their children could attend Northgate. They would be shut out if the petition is approved.

"I can guarantee you there is going to be huge opposition," said Elizabeth Wadsworth, a Crossings resident. "I'll go walking door to door."

Few petitions that ask for changes of this magnitude have been approved in the state because they are viewed as disruptive to the tax base of school districts, said Ellen Elster, deputy superintendent of the county Office of Education.

Mt.


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Diablo school administrators estimate they would lose nearly 5,000 students and $24 million in state revenue a year, as well as $50 million worth of facilities.

"Big transfers are very, very rare," Elster said.

Residents in the area shifted to the Acalanes and Walnut Creek districts would need to start paying parcel taxes in those districts of close to $300 a year.

But before decisions are made, the county counsel will review the petition to see if its maps, descriptions and other elements meet legal requirements. The voter registrar also must authenticate the signatures.

The Walnut Creek School District has 29,321 registered voters, said Tess Jazmin of the Contra Costa County Elections Department. The petition needs valid signatures from 10 percent of those voters to start the ball rolling on what is known as a "transfer of territory."

If the petition is deemed sufficient, the county Board of Education would convene as the county committee on school district reorganization and hold a hearing on whether to grant or deny the request.

If the county committee grants the petition and adopts a tentative approval, then more public hearings would be held and a final vote taken. Any party could then appeal.

However, if the committee rejects the petition, the decision cannot be appealed, Elster said.

Carver said the proposal could still go to a public hearing if one of the local school boards that would be affected passed a resolution in favor.

The Mt. Diablo school district voted down Carver's proposal Jan. 8.

Acalanes district Superintendent Jim Negri sent a notice to Carver that the Acalanes school board would not take a position on the petition before the county board acts. Walnut Creek school district leaders have not stated a position.

Shirley Dang covers education. Reach her at 925-977-8418 or sdang@bayareanewsgroup.com.