Charter organizations that were considering offers to set up shop on two Mar Vista elementary school campuses and one in Del Rey have turned down offers of classroom requests from the Los Angeles Unified School District, leaving them to seek out another place for their schools for the 2011-12 academic year.
Mar Vista and Grand View Boulevard elementary schools were contending with a possible colocation with WISH Charter and Inner City Education Foundation, respectively, but the charters rejected the district’s final classroom proposals May 6.
Colocation, where a community school shares communal space with a charter school, has become an increasingly heated discussion point among parents and educators as charter operators have begun to explore plans to expand and are asking LAUSD for more classrooms, which they are entitled to under Proposition 39.
Prop. 39 is a state law that was created through a ballot initiative in 2000. It allows charter operators to have equal access on community school campuses where classrooms are underutilized or vacant.
Parents and administrators at both Mar Vista schools have been leery of the charters coming to their schools because they were concerned that many of their ongoing programs would be disrupted if they lost classrooms that were set aside for intervention rooms and parent centers.
At some schools, science laboratories were slated to be given to the charter schools.
“Honestly, we’re relieved” that the charter school will not be coming to his school, said Grand View Boulevard Elementary School Principal Alfredo Ortiz. “(The colocation) would have had an impact on our science center, our computer labs and our other instructional programs.”
Sarah Auerswald, who has a son enrolled at Grand View, says that not having ICEF on campus will allow the school to continue to showcase one of its signature initiatives.
“I’m pleased because the school would like to expand its dual language Spanish immersion program in the future and this way we’ll have the space to do that,” said Auerswald, who has another son enrolled at a charter school.
WISH Charter Principal Shawna Draxton said the charter operator decided not to accept LAUSD’s proposal of six classrooms at Mar Vista Elementary because it did not fit the needs of the school.
“Our board looked at (LAUSD’s) offer and determined that there was not enough room to accommodate our students,” Draxton told The Argonaut.
ICEF officials did not return calls for comment for this story. But the charter’s president, Corri Tate-Ravare, said in an interview in March that Grand View’s administration, parent groups and educators had expressed anxiety that her organization’s presence will disrupt its progress by taking away the parent center and intervention rooms.
“We’ve heard from the state charter association that there are concerns and that they want to maintain their current programs, but I personally have not had any contact with the Grand View stakeholders,” she said.
Tate-Ravare acknowledged during the interview that there was no guarantee that her organization would accept the district’s offer in the wake of Grand View’s opposition.
“We are reserving the right to do what’s best for our students,” she said. “We do know that (a colocation with Grand View) could have an impact on their school.”
Neighborhood councils in Venice and Mar Vista held forums on the state of education this spring, and both sent letters to LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer opposing colocation at their community schools.
Babak Nahid, the chair of the Mar Vista Community Council’s education, arts and culture committee, said he had heard from some Mar Vista parents that charter representatives might have believed that a colocation would not be the best idea for them due to the community’s vocal outcry against them.
“Perhaps (the charters) may have felt that the message was sent that the home schools were not ready for a colocation,” he said.
Nahid is not entirely convinced that a charter and a community school coexisting on the same campus has to be a difficult experience.
“Colocation in itself is not a bad idea,” he said. “If this recent experience with colocation turns the concept into a bogeyman, that is a bad thing.”
Goethe International Charter in Del Rey accepted the district’s offer of four classrooms at Marina Del Rey Middle School and Ocean Charter agreed to take an additional six rooms at Walgrove Elementary’s campus in Mar Vista.
John Mora, a member of the board of trustees at Goethe, said the acquisition of the rooms supports the charter school’s growth plan.
“Now that we have more space, we will be able to service a portion of the students that have applied for our school,” he said. “We are very excited to be able to serve some of the students who will be coming to Goethe.”
Teachers and parents at the middle school have insisted that the loss of these rooms would hamper efforts to expand their magnet program.
The LAUSD Board of Education denied Goethe’s request last month for the K-5 school to become a middle school. Its lack of diversity among its student population was one reason cited by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and some of the board members.
Mora said gaining additional space for students could be advantageous in broadening Goethe’s diversity. “We are very confident that because we are remaining in one location, our student population will continue to become more reflective of the neighborhood,” the trustee said.
Zimmer, who represents Mar Vista, Del Rey and Venice, applauded ICEF for not coming to Grand View. “The decision not to seek a colocation there was the right decision,” he said.
Zimmer has described the school’s Spanish immersion program as an innovative initiative in prior interviews and singled out Grand View’s potential colocation as one that could have a deleterious effect on the academic improvements that the school administration is striving to produce.
“I really feel that Grand View is an example, in terms of damage to their program, that can be irreparable,” he said.
While Ortiz wishes ICEF luck in finding a place to establish its school, he is happy that the colocation did not happen at Grand View. “It really would have been an imposition on us,” the principal reiterated.
Draxton said WISH Charter is not deterred in seeking a colocation situation and would explore the possibility of one next year. “We’d be happy to have a colocation on the Westside next year and plan to use our Proposition 39 rights to explore all possibilities,” she said.
Green Dot Public Schools also accepted an offer to have six classrooms at Cowan Elementary School in Westchester. In February, the charter organization sought to obtain eight classrooms at Westminster Avenue Elementary School in Venice, but several parents and teachers protested to Zimmer and the district.
In March, Green Dot decided not to pursue gaining rooms at Westminster and made a late application for space at Cowan.
Green Dot executives declined to comment for this story.