By Greta Cobar
The neighborhood around Walgrove Elementary school is furious about Green Dot’s intent to build a school for 500 middle-school students on the Walgrove Elementary School campus. The main concerns involve increased traffic, less parking, loitering and vandalism in the residential area.
For the last six years 200 Ocean Charter School students in fourth through eighth grades have been collocating with the students of Walgrove Elementary in temporary classrooms that have to be removed, by state law, at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) issued a notice of intent to lease two acres of land on the Walgrove campus, opening the door to all charter schools to submit their proposals to build the new building, which could be financed with Measure K, R and Y bond funds if the charter is eligible. These funds were originally meant to be spent on repair and modernization of existing schools, such as a new cafeteria or gym for Walgrove students. If the charter is not eligible for the bond funds, it will be responsible for the costs of construction.
Green Dot is continuing its efforts of locating its Animo Westside Middle School in Venice, after its undertaking to co-locate at Westminster Elementary failed earlier this year because of strong community opposition (see People Win: Westminster Gets to Keep Its Classrooms, April Beachhead.) It had to instead accept the space it was allocated at Cowan Elementary in Playa Vista. They also have a high school, Animo Venice, located at Broadway Elementary School in Venice, in a new building that they constructed to seemingly look like a box of steel.
Both Ocean Charter and Green Dot will apply to lease the land and build on the Walgrove campus, and LAUSD will pick the winner. Walgrove neighbors and parents spoke against charter school presence in general, but Green Dot in particular, as it would add an additional 300 middle school students to the campus. It is unclear whether Ocean Charter will have any advantage for having been there first.
According to Kristy Mack-Fett, director of the Ocean Charter school on the Walgrove campus, Green Dot is a charter management organization with tens of schools, while Ocean Charter is more like a mom and pop business without any other branches. She stated that her school offers alternatives to families that are not well-suited by LAUSD.
The new building is expected to be ready for occupancy in about three and a half years. Ocean Charter students will continue their attendance during construction in the existing bungalows or in new, temporary bungalows, depending on LAUSD’s decision.
A motion was approved at the August 16 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting that recommends that “LAUSD focus on charter applicants’ capacity and ability to address middle school needs – without excluding elementary or high schools – in its upcoming Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Walgrove Campus.”
A second motion, seeking the VNC’s support of the continuation of Ocean Charter School’s co-location at the Walgrove campus, did not receive a second and died. The issue will likely be considered again once the RFP is published.
Although our tax dollars should support public education exclusively, charter schools were allowed to move onto traditional school campuses where classrooms are underutilized or vacant by Proposition 39, which passed in 2000. It is not probable that Walgrove will be able to take back the space already allocated to a charter school. However, it does seem in the best interests of the students for Ocean Charter to continue operating at its current location as opposed to being forcefully moved to another neighborhood. Although the neighbors would be happiest accommodating Walgrove Elementary students only, their traffic and congestion woes will worsen if Green Dot is allowed to replace Ocean Charter and bring in an additional 300 students.