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Ocean Charter Fails to Get Letter of Support from VNC

The Venice Neighborhood Council declines to support the school's effort to build at Walgrove, but it passes a motion suggesting the LAUSD "focus on" a middle school for the space there.

Ocean Charter School's request for a letter of support in its bid to build a new school on the grounds of Walgrove Avenue Elementary was deemed premature at a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting Tuesday night.

On Sept. 15, the LAUSD will release a request for proposal to , and the OCS representatives were hoping that the VNC would state its preference to have their school, which already shares the campus with Walgrove, continue at that location.

"We kind of knew that maybe it was premature," said Birgitte Hellsten, an OCS parent who wrote the motion. But she argued that putting any other school in the location "would be a strange precendent to set" since OCS is already there.

OCS has been colocating at Walgrove for the last four years, but under state law the bungalows that it has been using must be removed from the school before the 2012-13 school year.

"We are a neighborhood school," Hellsten said. "Most of our students live in Venice or Mar Vista."

The motion, which read in part, "should it be mandated that a school be on that site, we support the continuation of Ocean Charter School’s co-occupation," failed to get the required two board members to make and second it, and thus was not considered. 

A related prior motion recommended that the LAUSD "consider first and foremost" middle school students.

That motion was amended to say "focus on" middle schoolers and to add, "it being understood that the Venice Neighborhood Council is not excluding an elementary or high school component."

The amended motion passed unanimously, with one abstention.

"I'm glad that the first motion didn't pass in its original form," Hellsten said.

OCS serves about 450 kindergarten through sixth grade students at two campuses, one at Walgrove and another in Del Rey.

Hellsten said OCS has gathered about 200 signatures from the neighborhood in support of the school's continued colocation at the site.

"We feel we do have community support," Hellsten said.

Regardless of the Venice Neighborhood Council's recommendations, it is unclear what kind of restrictions the LAUSD would be able to put on the RFP.

"It has to be fair by legal standards," LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer told the packed room at Oakwood Rec Center on Tuesday night. "Folks are lawyered up. We're going to dot every 'I' and cross every 'T.' "

Interested charter schools will have 45 days to submit proposals after the RFP goes out on Sept. 15.

"There will be a lot of opportunity for input," Zimmer assured the board. 

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