Actions by the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education at its March 13 meeting had powerful implications for local families in The Argonaut coverage area.
Ocean Charter School in Mar Vista was denied the opportunity to build a new school at Walgrove Avenue Elementary School by a 4-3 vote. LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer, who proposed the land lease plan last year as an alternative to additional colocations, voted in favor of the proposal.
“I’m not sure that was the right choice,” Zimmer, who represents Mar Vista, said earlier this month. “This was really motivated by not knowing what else to do.”
Students who attend adult education classes received a measure of good news after the board voted not to drastically cut funding for their courses.
While he was the board member who recommended offering a charter school the opportunity to build a school on a parcel of unoccupied land at the Walgrove site, Zimmer expressed uncertainty about what the proposal could do to the families at the elementary school as well as the neighbors who live nearby and oppose the land lease agreement.
Ocean Charter officials sent an email to the school’s parents after the vote thanking them for their dedication to their cause of building a separate school for their students. Currently, kindergarten through third grade students take their classes at a Christian school in Del Rey and fourth through eighth grades collocate, or share the campus with Walgrove.
“It is with a heavy heart that we write to you to inform you of today’s LAUSD board decision not to accept their unanimous staff recommendation of Ocean Charter School as the winners of the request for proposal,” wrote Ocean Charter Directors Stephanie Edwards and Kristy Mack Fett. “This means that our wonderful school will not have the opportunity to build a facility for our entire student body on the Walgrove campus.”
Because the bungalows where Ocean Charter students take their classes will be removed at the end of June, the charter school now must decide how it will proceed and where its students will attend classes next year.
“We are already planning on our next moves,” Edwards and Mack-Fett wrote. “And, it is precisely this Ocean Charter School drive and spirit that will fuel our efforts to find the right permanent home for our school.
“We look forward to keeping you informed and thank everyone for their efforts on behalf of our students.”
A group of neighbors who reside near the school and who opposed having a charter school built at the Walgrove site welcomed the board’s decision.
“We are elated,” Sandi Wise, who lives across the street from the elementary school, told The Argonaut after the meeting “Now we can focus on what we need to focus on, which is continuing to support the improvements that Walgrove parents and staff have made, supporting their fundraising efforts, and working to secure the funding for upgrades and modernization.”
Adult education was also on the board’s agenda. Instead of eliminating the program entirely, as it had considered last month, the board restored 60 percent of its funding.
Venice Community Adult School Principal Cynthia Tollette does not view the decision as a victory because she predicts that some programs may be lost and some of the instructors might have to be laid off.
“I think we’re going to have to continue the fight on this, because this is totally unacceptable,” she said. “We’re down to a quarter of our program and with the small amount (of funding) that we were given, many of our staff will likely have to be let go.”
Tollette said adult education advocates requested $100 million for the program and were given half that amount.
Venice Neighborhood Council Education Chair Cindy Chambers shared Tollette’s concerns. “It’s very bittersweet,” Chambers said of the vote.
Chambers, an outspoken adult education advocate, said too often the public seems content to accept less than what is needed when governments grapple with budget shortfalls and threaten to eliminate certain initiatives. “We’ve grown so accustomed to having the rug pulled out from us that we’re satisfied when we’re offered a pittance,” she lamented.
In an effort to reduce its projected $390 million budget deficit, the board voted in favor of placing a parcel tax measure on the June ballot. The $298 per parcel annual levy would, if approved, generate $255 million per year for the district for five years beginning in 2013-14, according to LAUSD officials.
“We have to do everything within our power to save public education,” said LAUSD Board President M—nica Garc’a. “This includes looking at any source of revenue that would allow the district to carry out its responsibility to provide students a safe learning environment and reach 100 percent graduation. LAUSD must remain accountable to our children and their future.”
Zimmer said those in favor of the parcel tax proposal “must work day and night to add this stability to our classrooms.
“Public education is on the line,” he added.