Will the LAUSD actually listen?

Last night’s Echo Park Improvement Association Neighborhood Issues Committee meeting brought out well over 30 people to Williams Hall at Barlow Hospital to discuss community concerns about CRES#14, an LAUSD school being built near the busy intersection of Alvarado and Sunset Blvd.

Chieko Rupp, now retired from the LAUSD, spoke at the meeting as the “point person” of the design team that is writing the proposal for CRES#14. Although not an official rep from the LAUSD, she and the team will be submitting the final project proposal to the LAUSD for review.

Here’s a run-down of what is being discussed for the future of CRES#14:

  • It will be Pre-kindergarten through eighth grade
  • Because the school was initially built to alleviate over-crowded elementary schools (and continued to be the focus even after elementary schools became under-enrolled), the school will include elementary age students. One of the reasons include construction – some classrooms were built specifically for smaller children.
  • It will be a “span” school
  • Initial plans are that it will pull predominantly from areas to the south and west of the school, areas that do not include Echo Park. This, however, is not set in stone, but it’s the “boundary office” that determines which areas the school will pull from. Schools include Virgil and King, which are heavily overcrowded
  • Curriculum focus will be music, arts, language and technology
  • Capacity of the school is approximately 800, but they expect around 500 with about 35 classrooms (three may be used for a senior citizen’s organization)
  • Will be a single zone of choice, meaning kids won’t be forced to go in there but will instead have the opportunity to apply

It is difficult to completely understand some of the complicated terminology revolving “choice” schools, “span” schools, etc., but what we do understand are the concerns of the community when it comes to the LAUSD opening up a Pre-K through 8 school (and run by a charter school) in Echo Park. Many of the residents at the meeting focused on getting the point across that:

  • Echo Park should benefit from the school: 50 homes were destroyed, hundreds of people were displaced. This community needs a middle school, why not use the new school to provide this much-needed service? Why destroy a part of our community only to keep us from primarily benefiting?
  • We don’t need another elementary school: Existing elementary schools are losing teachers, and enrollment is going down. Opening up another elementary school could negatively impact our beloved elementary schools which, if they were to close, would severely impact the community.
  • Make CRES#14 a middle school, or at least make it the primary focus: Assuming we can’t do anything about there being elementary-age classes offered, if  the focus remain on middle school students it might help alleviate community concerns about our schools. However, there’s no guarantee that this will actually be followed through by the LAUSD and the chosen charter school until the decisions are made.

The question is: Will the LAUSD actually listen to the concerns of the community, and cooperate?

The good news? We were promised that nothing, absolutely nothing was set in stone and that we are still in proposal phase. There will be additional meetings prior to the proposal submital for community members to provide input. Deadline for the proposal is December 1, 2010, and the Board is schedule to make the final decision on February 22, 2011. Keep your eye out for these meetings here on Echo Park Now, and follow the EPIA website for announcements regarding those meetings.

Also make sure to follow The Eastsider LA for more detailed analysis of CRES#14 and the issues surrounding it.

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