Charter schools located on multiple LAUSD campuses are down, but it’s still disruptive, families say
Mike Szymanski | January 11, 2017
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The number of charter schools that will be located on multiple campuses in LA Unified next year will be down from 24 to 22, and the number of schools located on three different campuses will go from eight to four.
But that’s not enough and co-located campuses continue to be disruptive to the communities and the students at the schools, parents said at Tuesday’s LA Unified School Board meeting. The split campuses also hurt enrollment at the charters, charter school officials say.
“This will divide our close school community, and I would not have time for breakfast with my children,” said Nancy Peters, who said that the school district’s solution to divide Clemente Charter School between two campuses adds four miles to her commute. The school will have 12 classrooms and an office at Holmes Elementary School and seven classrooms and an office at Heliotrope Elementary School in Maywood, southeast of downtown Los Angeles. “Please do not break up our school,” she told the board.
Bernice Rodriguez, who has two children at Clemente Charter, said she doesn’t have a car to get to the two school sites.
“If this school moves to a different site and is split this way, it will have an important impact on our lives,” Rodriguez said. “Many of us don’t have cars, and those of us who do have cars would have to spend more money on gasoline and additional time to take our children to school.”
Proposition 39 allows charter schools to use district facilities not being used for instructional or administrative purposes, but in some cases schools cannot be located on a single campus. The district tries to find space at schools that are within one or two miles of each other.
Last year, 95 of the 211 charter schools under LA Unified jurisdiction asked for rooms on district campuses. At that time, 24 schools were offered two or more campuses and eight of those were on three campuses.
This year, 94 of the 228 charter schools in the district asked for 32,451 seats in district schools; 22 schools will be on multiple campuses, four of those on three locations.
Although the co-located sites are fewer than in the past, it’s still too many for the California Charter Schools Association, which sent a letter to the school board on Tuesday stating, “CCSA continues to be disappointed in the number of multi-site offers recommended by the LAUSD staff.” The letter claims that the district is not following state law and that the district has failed to explain why schools cannot be located on one site. CCSA said the district is also improperly identifying empty space.
The letter and a half dozen speakers asked the board to reject the sites being offered to the charter schools for the 2017-18 school year, but the sites were approved by the whole board under a consent vote.
The charter schools on two locations are: Ararat Charter School, Celerity Cardinal Charter School, Celerity Octavia Charter School, Celerity Rolas Charter School, Celerity Troika Charter School, Citizens of the World-Mar Vista, Citizens of the World-Hollywood, City Language Immersion Charter, Clemente Charter School, Equitas Academy, Equitas Academy #2, Equitas Academy #3, Extera Public School, Extera Public School #2, ICEF Vista Elementary Charter Academy, New Heights Charter School, Synergy Charter Academy and WISH Charter Middle School.
The schools on three campuses are: Celerity Himalia Charter School, Celerity Nascent Charter School, Citizens of the World-Silver Lake and Endeavor College Preparatory Charter School.
Six schools on last year’s co-located list are no longer on the list, while four are newly added to the list: City Language Immersion Charter, New Heights Charter School, Synergy Charter Academy and Citizens of the World-Hollywood.
At a District 4 candidate forum on Monday, school board President Steve Zimmer said the Prop. 39 system is broken. “There have been all kinds of problems with this on all sides, and I offer myself as someone who will make this a priority in terms of getting everyone to the table to address the facilities issue.”
Splitting up the schools causes the charter schools to suffer a decline in enrollment, said Clemente Charter Principal AnnMarie Smith, who said she previously saw a drop when the separate school sites were only one mile apart.
“We will have more students leave because of this,” Smith predicted now that her school will be separated by four miles on the campuses of Heliotrope and Holmes schools.
Jon Host, the chief operating officer of Equitas Academy, said the split sites of his schools in the MacArthur Park and Pico-Union areas mean extra costs. They have to double staff for safety officers, delivery crew, parking lots and administrative staff at the multiple sites.
“Having the school on multiple locations makes building a cohesive community very difficult,” Host said.
Cassy Horton, the regional advocacy director of CCSA, noted that the district leaves the schools in limbo each year and “a split site is a threat to students and families when navigating multiple sites.” She noted the problem of holding school-wide events and how the split campuses hurt low-income families.
Charter Division chief José Cole-Gutiérrez, who helps allocate the Prop. 39 classrooms to the charter schools, said he does the best he can to keep the schools together on one campus. He said if space is not available on one campus, they will try to keep the next available space within a mile or so if possible.
District officials stated in their Prop. 39 report that this school year, 154,653 students were enrolled in charter schools, which is 5,956 students more than last year. That’s more than any in the nation, and about 1.5 times the charter school students in New York, the nation’s largest school district, the report states.
It also states that difficulties in placing the schools together include the sheer size of the district, the second-largest in the nation, which spans 710 square miles and 27 cities. Schools are also allowed to shield from charter use rooms not used for classrooms such as Small Learning Community sites, space for district police, regional special educational testing centers, health center clinics, food service and Beyond the Bell programs.
Nevertheless, LA Unified “ensured that every eligible in-district charter student was offered a seat,” according to the report.