ORINDA -- After insisting for more than a month that a 7-year-old Latina girl, the daughter of a live-in nanny, did not live within district boundaries, Orinda school officials relented over the winter break, acknowledging Vivian resides in the affluent East Bay city.
The decision marked the final residency-related obstacle for the girl to remain in her Orinda elementary school with no strings or preconditions.
The officials cited "additional information" submitted to the district for spurring the reversal.
On Dec. 18, the district mailed letters to Vivian's mother Maria and her employer Miriam Storch saying, "Vivian has been determined to be a resident of the district."
Vivian, 7, photographed in her Orinda bedroom Nov. 25, 2014. The Orinda Union School District claimed that her primary residence was not in Orinda, so she
Vivian, 7, photographed in her Orinda bedroom Nov. 25, 2014. The Orinda Union School District claimed that her primary residence was not in Orinda, so she was not allowed to attend a neighborhood school where she lives as the daughter of a live-in nanny. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
In the letter, Loreen Farrell, the district's finance chief, said, "Accordingly, Vivian will remain enrolled in the District at this time, as she has been throughout the District's investigation and prior correspondence."
In November, the district alerted Vivian's family that the second-grader would be disenrolled from the Orinda district after an investigation found she lived in Bay Point with her grandmother. It's still unclear what prompted the probe, which included the district hiring a private investigator. This newspaper is not using the last names of Vivian and her mother due to privacy concerns.
Following an article by this newspaper and related public outcry, the district said Vivian could stay after Storch reluctantly signed an affidavit becoming Vivian's caregiver. However, that move offended Maria, and the family wanted that declaration changed. In Farrell's Dec. 18 letter to Storch, she asked Storch whether she wished to remain as Vivian's caregiver now that she has been determined to be an Orinda resident. Storch emailed a response asking to be removed as caregiver but has not heard back from the district offices, which are closed for the holidays.
"Maria's relieved. It seemed absolutely ridiculous that it had to get to this point," Storch said Monday. "She keeps asking me why they didn't just call us from the start."
What caused the district's change of heart is unclear, but on Dec. 15, Storch sent an unsolicited email to each of the school board members with additional documents proving that Vivian has lived in Storch's home since the beginning of the school year.
Included in the email was a June receipt for two pink headboards for the bed in her Orinda room, a receipt for an Orinda youth theater camp in which Vivian acted in its "Frozen" performance, copies of emails between Storch and Vivian's teacher discussing the girl's reading level concerns brought up at the dinner table and dozens of photos of the girl with Storch's family at the house.
In her email, Storch wrote to the board members, "Vivian's presence in our home before then, and since then, has been the same: She sleeps in our home, bathes in our home and has meals at our kitchen table. She goes to her grandmother's house in Bay Point and occasionally to her aunt's house in Newark on the weekends and for special family events."
The district's attorney Harold Freiman said Monday he could not comment on specifics on the case due to student privacy concerns.
"Generally speaking, the district gives consideration to all information available to it in addressing residency issues," he said, adding that the board plans to review its residency policy at an upcoming meeting, likely in January.
Storch said Vivian's six tardies this semester may have prompted the investigation. Vivian spent considerable time over the semester with her ill great-grandmother, who passed away Nov. 18.
"We wish that someone had simply called us, or Maria, to ask us what was going on," Storch wrote in an update on her blog. "Why the district launched a full-blown investigation, without contacting us or giving us a chance to explain the circumstances, we still don't know."