Parents at Grand View Boulevard Elementary School are concerned that the school district’s plans to offer space to a charter school on its campus will harm its academic achievements and programs.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) confirmed that on Feb. 1 it made preliminary offers for a charter school to share space with Grand View Elementary. The LAUSD has permission to do so under Proposition 39, a schools bond measure passed in 2000 that requires school districts to offer space for charter schools.
If things go as planned, Grand View Elementary School is expected to free up as many as seven rooms for a charter school starting in the fall. Counterproposals had to be made by March 1, and the charter school selected by the district has until May 1 to accept an offer.
Any plan to locate a charter school at Grand View Elementary doesn’t bode well with several parents and students, who have written more than 200 letters to LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines. Among them is Heather Austin, whose son attends Grand View's kindergarten.
“There is simply not enough space to offer a charter school,” she said in her letter to Cortines. “In fact, Grand View may have to start putting bungalows up just to accommodate our own projected growth.”
Austin touts the school's 20-year-old Dual Language Program, the only Spanish-English program of its kind on the Westside, as a major selling point. Austin said that although she supports the charter school concept, growing interest in the Dual Language Program, together with the school’s science and computer intervention programs, are why a charter school should not be allowed at Grand View.
"They have a right to space, but not at the expense of our children,” she said.
Grand View Principal Alfredo Ortiz is also concerned about the impact a charter school may have on the Dual Language Program, which he says is in high demand.
“We have upwards of 44 first-graders in Dual Language programs and only one second-grade class,” he said. “Based on current enrollment, we need to open up another second-grade class room.”
Ortiz added that locating a charter school on the grounds would "drastically limit" what the school can do to serve its students now and in the future.
Serineh Nersisian, the teacher’s assistant in the science room, said the hands-on experience there is not something that is found in a regular classroom. ‘This program is so rich, we don’t just do experiments, we also bring animals into the class," she said. "Kids are so motivated by this, they learn to appreciate science and lots of kids love the room.”
"My son has an opportunity to learn Spanish given that Spanish language speakers make up the largest minority," said Kristal Benjamin-Joseph, whose son is enrolled in the Dual Language Program. "The charter school is not a good idea because this school is already strong and structured."
Janine Negrin's son attends kindergarten at Grand View and said that other parents she's talked to are also worried that the charter school would squeeze out art and intervention programs and the school's computer lab.
"The quality of education would not be equal if a charter school moves in," she said. "All of the enrichment programs help children grow and the lessons taken in the rooms used for intervention programs help the test scores go up."
She added that it would be difficult for both the current school and a new charter school on the premises. "There's not going to be extra spots," she said. "There's not enough room for both of us to grow."
Melissa Davis, co-president of the school's PTA, also expressed concerns. "There's the fear of our school getting divided," she said. "The district could give space to the charters and limit Grand View's growth. Once they've got their roots, they could get in and expand."
Davis said that parents will continue to fight efforts by the district to locate a charter school at Grand View and have already done so by attending school board meetings and other community functions.
Despite the parents' concerns, Jose Cole-Gutierrez, the director of charter schools in the Innovation and Charter Schools Division at LAUSD, told Patch that officials considered many factors before tentatively offering space at Grand View. He said that although he understands parents' concerns, the district has a responsibility to fulfill its commitments under Proposition 39.
“The district acknowledges the work of the school and parents and how co-locating could undermine performance,” he said. “We take into consideration the safety, the education and the facility space the school has to offer and the data shows that the school has space.”
He added that the principal and the school would decide how to use whatever room space is left for programs such as the Dual Language one.
Meanwhile, Ortiz is asking for parents' support through volunteering and fundraising to ensure the school will keep its programs running.
“What we need is the support to continue thriving and anything that doesn’t allow us to would be a hindrance,” he said. “I only wonder what’s going to happen to the kids [who want to enroll] in the school but [won't be able to] because of lack of space.”