June 27, 2005


Going the Distance for Choice: For some families, the best schools are those far from home. Students and parents try to make the most of their time on the road. (Jean Merl, June 27, 2005, LA Times)

Early every morning that classes are in session, Laura Aguayo loads her three children into the family minivan and begins the commute to school. Palmdale to Topanga Canyon: 62 miles, four freeways, two twisting canyon roads.

"It's a sacrifice for me, but I don't care," Aguayo said recently before she began a summer hiatus in her trips to the private Calmont School. "I want the best for my children."

Aguayo is hardly alone, judging by the accounts of families who do not let long commutes deter them from enrolling their children in schools they deem best.

"This is one more variation on the growing movement for school choice," said Jennifer Jellison Holme, a researcher at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. "There might be a good school less than three hours away, but people are going to do what they think is best for their kids."

Students making long trips to private and some public schools is nothing new. The Los Angeles Unified School District's magnet program, for example, has for decades drawn students to distant campuses.

Irene Sumida, co-director of Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace, said she was stunned when the mother of two students commuted each day from Bakersfield — about 75 miles away — after the family moved midway through the school year.

About a dozen students live in Palmdale or Lancaster, and one Burbank family recently transferred their son from a private school, Sumida said. Dozens of other parents ride public buses to bring their youngsters to the northeast San Fernando Valley campus.

"When people commute, not for a job but for their children, that's really something," Sumida said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 27, 2005 8:58 AM

Palmdale to Topanga Canyon! Holy crap, I wouldn't wish that commute on my worst enemy.

This woman should win some sort of mother of the year award.

Posted by: H. D. Miller at June 27, 2005 10:59 AM

I'm confused, is this a post about school choice or about American's wasteful use of gas?

Posted by: Thom at June 29, 2005 11:54 AM

Give them vouchers and they won't have to drive.

Posted by: oj at June 29, 2005 12:01 PM