Charter schools seeking space at traditional school campuses will soon have the opportunity to reject or accept offers made to them by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The deadline to accept, withdraw or reject the offer of classrooms is Tuesday, May 1, which leaves the organizations and nonprofit entities requesting rooms and the schools that will lose them a short window of time to prepare themselves for a new dynamic beginning in September.
Proposition 39, a 2000 ballot initiative that was approved by voters, permits charter operators to request space at traditional schools where their school districts determine if there are vacant, unused or underused rooms. The choice to offer these rooms is at LAUSD’s discretion and despite repeated requests for clarification of what constitutes “underused” classrooms from The Argonaut, representatives of the school district have not offered an explanation.
Six years ago, the California Charter School Association sued LAUSD to enforce Prop 39.
Last year, District 4, which includes schools in Del Rey, Westchester, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice, had the most colocations in the entire school district, according to LAUSD officials.
Colocations occur when charters and traditional schools share much of the campus facilities.
Among the charter operators applying for classrooms is Ocean Charter School in Mar Vista. The K-8 school will be required to leave Walgrove Avenue Elementary School at the end of the school year because the bungalows where its students take classes will be removed.
WISH Charter School has been offered space at Stoner Avenue Elementary in Del Rey, but the school’s administrators prefer a school close to Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, as it has developed a strong bond with the university through a program where university students sometimes teach at the charter school.
WISH, which applied for five classrooms at Mar Vista Elementary School last year but ultimately did not accept them, has submitted an application for 13 classrooms, according to principal Shawna Draxton.
LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer, who represents District 4, saw the effects of “colocation spring” last year and sought to alleviate some of the tension between the charter school and Walgrove parents by offering a 2-acre parcel of land at the elementary school for a charter school to build there through a bidding process.
Ocean Charter won the bid over Green Dot Public Schools in January, but the school board rejected its application last month. The charter is now hoping to secure classrooms at a new school, Playa Vista Elementary, which is slated to open in September.
The advent of another season of tension due to colocations appears not to be as heightened as last year, when several new schools in District 4 faced the possibility of sharing their campuses with charters during “colocation spring.”
Mar Vista, Grand View Boulevard and Westminster Avenue elementary schools and Marina Del Rey Middle School vociferously protested incoming colocations.
At these schools, principals and teachers said a new school arriving on their respective campuses and taking away classrooms could threaten their existing programs that were enhancing student academic achievement.
Zimmer also feels that charters will have to make certain adjustments this time.
“The charter community is going to have to be a little more creative and a little less litigious,” he said in an interview earlier this year.
At Marina Del Rey, the journalism class lost its room along with its computer room where English teacher Naomi Roth’s seventh and eighth grade students created the newspaper.
“(Losing the rooms) is a direct result of this law that seems to be a good idea for some, but not for a lot of students of traditional schools,” Roth lamented in an interview last year.
Zimmer believes three of the schools that were able to remain charter-free last year saw a renaissance of community activism centered around rebuilding the local schools.
“I think that at schools like Grand View, Mar Vista and Westminster, there was an interesting recharging of the recognition and importance of neighborhood schools,” he recalled. “Nothing makes you appreciate the importance of a neighborhood school until it’s threatened.”
Ocean Charter officials did not return calls for comment.
Venice High School and Mark Twain will not face colocations this year, but they could lose classrooms nonetheless.
LAUSD campus police could take over a bungalow and a science laboratory at the high school and the district’s office of transportation could take space at Mark Twain, according to LAUSD.
Green Dot has also asked for additional rooms at Cowan Elementary School in Westchester, where the organization accepted LAUSD’s offer after Westminster Elementary in Venice protested them taking classrooms at their school.
For new charters that wish to come to District 4, they must realize that there is a dearth of space on the Westside, Zimmer said.
“I’ve told charters that are interested in coming to the Westside that if they want my support, they have to understand that it will have to come without a Prop. 39 colocation,” Zimmer said.