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Space for a New Building at Walgrove Elementary Likely to Be Offered to a Charter School

Representatives from the LAUSD hold a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss plans to lease two empty acres to a charter school on Walgrove's campus.

Parents and residents packed the auditorium of on Wednesday night to hear about the LAUSD's plan to lease two empty acres on the campus to a charter organization for development of a new building and school.

The LAUSD board will vote on whether to authorize a notice of intent to lease on June 21, and interested charter organizations would have at least a month to respond with a proposal to build. It's expected that a new school would house approximately 500 students.

"The conversation does not stop after tonight," LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer told the uneasy crowd.

The notice of intent to lease is expected to be released by the end of June, said Krisztina Tokes, the LAUSD director of planning and development in the facilities department. Assuming the plan goes through, a new school would be ready for occupancy in about three and a half years, Tokes said. Any interested charter organization would be eligible to apply.

Any development would be subject to the California Environmental Quality Act review process, which looks at how a building would affect the neighborhood around it, including traffic, density and land use considerations.

"We want to locate it in a way that doesn't conflict in existing access to Walgrove," Tokes said.

Several community members and parents came forth on behalf of—and in frustration with—Ocean Charter School, which houses about 150 of its 370 students in portable facilities at Walgrove. Those buildings are due to be removed at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

"We've had a terrible experience with Ocean Charter," business owner and Walgrove neighbor Eric Wise said during public comment. 

"We've had a terrible time with traffic from student drop-off and commuters taking off down the street," said Robin Mason. "It's a worthy cause, we're all for good education, but we need help with the traffic."

Other residents spoke up in favor of the current charter occupancy. "I want to see [Ocean] continue, the garden, art programs and music," said grandparent Karin Costello.

"We have a neighborhood school that is getting used again—there is life at that school," said Barbara Einstein, another Walgrove parent and a nearby resident. "This land does not belong to certain people, it belongs to everybody," she added.

Tension between charter schools and neighborhood schools is not new to the Venice area. Earlier this year, the announcement that a new Green Dot Charter middle school would be located at Westminster Avenue Elementary . Green Dot was ultimately offered space at Cowan Elementary in Westchester and will bus Mar Vista and Venice students to the campus for the 2011-12 school year.

Green Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi told Patch after the Wednesday meeting that his organization would "absolutely" put in a proposal for space at Walgrove.

The LAUSD board vote on June 21 would be just the beginning of a long process for whichever charter organization is selected. The board will vote at least two more times, after a proposal is selected and after the environmental review process and negotiations, but before construction starts. Both votes will afford an opportunity for public comment.

"This is not a bullet train. This is a process that has many steps along the way," Zimmer said.

No matter what happens, Zimmer said he is committed to the neighborhood school already in place. "Making sure that we have a thriving, engaged community at Walgrove is incredibly important to my office," he said.

Robert D. Skeels June 18, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Incidentally, the Patch network respects my writings on education enough that I am one of their resident bloggers in my community edition of Patch. http://echopark.patch.com/users/robert-d-skeels/blog_posts So much for being, in Mr. Petruzzi's words, a "nutcase." Am I vehemently opposed to corporate charter-voucher schools? Yes, because they have unelected boards that are not accountable or responsive to the communities which the ostensibly serve. It is my strong belief that if you take public money, then you should be subject to public oversight, input and decision making. Moreover, as the OMI documents cited above, as well as many other peer reviewed studies, have shown, CMOs avoid teaching the most vulnerable and needy students. In my reckoning, they should be obligated legally, morally, and ethically to serve our communities and educate every child! Must be my quaint notions of democratic processes and my belief in the importance of the public commons.
Walgrove Dad June 18, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Wait are you saying that elected officials are accountable and responsive to their constituents? And not big donors, lobbyists, unions or political parties? Your quaint notion is so 1789. We could only wish it worked that way.
Concerned Parent June 19, 2011 at 03:23 AM
Mr. Petruzzi, As the mother of school age children, I found your remarks highly offensive. I do not know Mr. Skeels, and plan to read his work, and form my own opinion, thank you very much. But if you believe it is morally acceptable to disparage the character of a community member who happens to disagree with you, I shudder to think how you will respond to this post. I pray you will not attack me in the same manner, simply for questioning your approach. Need I remind you, you are an adult. I think your mother raised you better. Given your comment, I am also concerned how you may behave with your children, as well as those that you serve in your schools. Your remarks were highly unprofessional, to put it mildly. This is not the kind of leadership our children deserve. The children deserve better. A public apology is in order. I will pray for you. Very concerned.
Marco Petruzzi June 19, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Dear Concerned Parent, I'm so sorry if I've upset you. It certainly wasn't my intention. And please read Mr. Skeels blogs accurately. In them in the past couple of years he has often called me a criminal and a profiteer, making money from low income kids. Very offensive stuff for someone that runs a non-profit focused on sending low income minority kids to college. I generally don't respond to mr. Skeels, who keeps me in good company, calling criminals also Bill Gates and many other philanthropists, who have decided to give away all their money to defeat childhood diseases and improving the lives of the less fortunate. He can't stand anyone who challenges the status quo. As far as I can tell, Mr. Skeels does not live in our community. I assume he lives in Echo Park, as his post before suggests. So when someone else quoted him as an expert, I made the mistake of responding.
Marco Petruzzi June 19, 2011 at 01:52 PM
(continued) you see, data can be easily manipulated or used out of context. Comparing quality based on API scores is simply ridiculous for anyone involved in education. While we do have some schools at the bottom of the list, in a number what you can't discern is that one of those schools specializes in English Language Learners Levels 1 and 2 (kids that speak no English, recent immigrants), another one of our schools is a drop-out recovery schools for kids that had already been lost to the system (we've graduated well over 100 of them so far, kids that everyone had given up on). Yet another one of our schools in South Central caters to students coming back from the juvenile jail system. In any case, I will stay out of this blog from now on, even if I do live in this community and focus on my work instead, which is very important to me. I will try again not to get dragged down in conversations like these that have very little benefit for the kids. My apologies for offending you, Concerned Parent. Please don't waste your prayers on me, by all means.

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