The Playa Vista community was built upon the idea of residents having a myriad of amenities within very close proximity.
In Phase I of the development, a retail component as well as public parks and recreational facilities were built in addition to a large number of residential units. The second stage of development, known as the Village, will add more homes and public recreation facilities as well a shopping center to complete Playa Vista’s creators’ vision of a planned community.
For many of the families of Playa Vista, having a school where they could walk to with their children was also a factor in their decision to move to the community. And this fall they will get that opportunity.
Playa Vista Elementary School will open its doors to many students of the planned community in September as well as to children from the One West Bluff section of Westchester and possibly the children of Loyola Marymount University employees.
A joint venture by Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Steve Zimmer will allow the One West Bluff students to attend the new K-5 school after attendance boundaries were renegotiated.
The school will use the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum. According to the Level Playing Field Institute, seven out of 10 of the fastest-growing occupations over the next decade will be in STEM-related careers.
Students at Playa Vista Elementary will also take advantage of the close proximity to the Ballona Wetlands, as well as the Discovery Center, which is less than a block east of the school. Environmental stewardship will be integrated into their lessons as well.
“We’re very blessed to live in this community, but there’s such a larger world beyond our community,” noted Julie Hoang, president of the Friends of the Playa Vista School, a non-profit created in 2010 to raise money for the school. The organization is comprised of several committees, including environment and sustainability, community outreach and teacher support.
A group of volunteers whose children will attend the school in the fall as well as others whose children will reach school age in a year or two have organized a non-profit to raise money for the school for nearly 18 months.
The group raised $160,000 at the end of May and will be continuing its efforts throughout the year.
Steve Donell has lived in Playa Vista for approximately nine years and sees the opening of the school as a continuation of what many of the community’s residents enjoy about Playa Vista and why they moved there.
“The school is a natural extension of what is great about the Playa Vista community. Diversity of backgrounds and a focus on community, partnering with the many organizations involved in the Ballona Wetlands and the overall goal of fostering an open and inviting environment for this public school,” said Donell, a former member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa.
“With a focus on STEM education, we are excited to be part of a model elementary school within LAUSD.”
Sharon McDaniel recently moved to Playa Vista and her son will be part of the school’s inaugural kindergarten class. She said she is intrigued by the STEM component.
“I think it’s going to be a premier school,” said McDaniel. “I was surprised that this is a public school.”
Hoang, whose 4-year-old will attend experimental kindergarten in the fall, is also a fan of the focus on science and mathematics.
“As a parent, I want my children to have every opportunity for a successful future. STEM not only opens the doors to future careers that are increasingly in high demand, but builds critical thinking skills that are so crucial for students to possess as the next generation of leaders and innovators,” said Hoang, whose 2-year-old will attend the school in three years.
“I love the concept of science and math being seamlessly infused in everything students do and making connections to the real world by learning through hands-on projects,” she continued. “This is an exciting new direction for education that I can’t wait for my children to be a part of.”
Donell’s children are not school-aged but they will be attending the K-5 school.
“I am excited to have my son and daughter attend this public school. It obviously is ideally located, within walking distance of our home, as well as being located adjacent to a sports field, a public Los Angeles library, and the Playa Vista community center facilities,” he said. “Many of us parents have gotten to know each other over the years and none of us had kids. Now, there are hundreds of children in Playa Vista and One West Bluff.”
Many of the parents are planning to walk their children to school and establish “safe zones” with parents at stations along routes to the school in the morning and afternoon.
“Our children can enjoy the public parks, library, and the overall neighborhood, while going to the local school with each other as well,” Donell added. “It is really an ideal situation and with the huge level of parental involvement and support, I sincerely believe the school is going to have a culture of community, learning, scholastic achievement – all with a focus on environmental stewardship and STEM.”
LAUSD and LMU must sign a memorandum of understanding before there can be any established and official working association with the elementary school, as some members of the parents group envision.
The document had not been signed as of Argonaut press time.
“We’re hoping that it will be signed soon,” said Celeste Durant, a spokeswoman at the university.
The school’s interim principal, Karen Rose, said having the school within Playa Vista is “a terrific opportunity for Playa Vista residents to have their children attend a school in their neighborhood that will have a focus on math and science.” Rose, a longtime Playa Vista resident, will be at the school until next June.
Ocean Charter School has been offered nine classrooms and one office on a temporary basis at the new Playa Vista School. The charter school was colocating, or sharing space and facilities, at Walgrove Avenue Elementary School in Mar Vista until this year.