ICEF charter kids greeted by protesters on first day of school
Craig Clough | August 18, 2015
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One day before LA Unified’s traditional schools opened, students at ICEF Vista Elementary Academy, a charter in Del Rey, began their classes, greeted yesterday by teachers and administrators — and about a dozen protesters who told them they were not wanted and should go somewhere else.
It was also the first day ICEF had moved part of its campus to be co-located on the campus of Stoner Avenue Elementary, and that is what the protest was all about. The Stoner parents and neighborhood residents who were protesting are dedicated to making ICEF parents and students feel unwelcome.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
Stoner was the site of a co-location battle two school years ago when students of Citizens of the World – Mar Vista shared the campus with Stoner kids. It did not go well. The same organization responsible for yesterday’s protest, Friends of Stoner, organized similar opposition to the co-location until LA Unified moved the charter after one year due to a technicality of filing some paperwork late.
Adam Benitez, a parent of two Stoner students who helped lead the opposition to Citizens of World, was out on the sidewalk again yesterday, helping lead the opposition to ICEF. The charter students are not welcome in the Stoner community, Benitez said, and he hopes to see the them gone by next school year.
ICEF stands for Inner City Education Foundation, which operates 12 schools serving over 4,000 children, kindergarten through 12th grade, in the LA area.
“We are going to put as much pressure as we can on ICEF so they don’t come back next year and so the parents do not want to stay and will seek other options,” he said. “For the parents in the area, we want them to consider Stoner. For those outside the area, we are asking them to consider other options.”
He explained that his opposition to the co-locaiton is due to the increased traffic it causes in the neighborhood and the resources it takes away from the students at Stoner.
“As a parent of two Stoner Elementary students, I am upset that they have taken away resources from our children,” he said. “They have taken nine classrooms… all the resources that have been making this school great have been taken away from us, so we are really upset about that.”
Jason Mandell, spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association, said ICEF and Stoner should have a chance to prove they can peacefully co-exist before any protesting occurs.
“It’s unfortunate, and its upsetting that on the first day of school that a few adults decide to disrupt learning for public school students, for teachers and for families,” Mandell said. “It’s the opposite of modeling good behavior for children and it’s not going to help address any issues, it’s just creating conflict for conflict’s sake.”
Under Proposition 39, public school districts are required to provide charter schools with vacant space if it is requested to, even if the space is at an active school campus. While some co-locations at LA Unified work well, others have caused conflict.
Michel Schneider, senior director for ICEF Public Schools, declined a request for an interview but provided LA School Report with a statement: “ICEF Public Schools and ICEF Vista’s focus and collaboration with LAUSD has been and continues to be on students and providing them a safe environment for learning.”
ICEF still has part of its campus at a closed church a few blocks away and the request for space at Stoner was made to help the school expand. When asked how many students were taking classes at the Stoner campus, Schneider said, “With numbers fluctuating during the first week of school, that is not a question that we can answer today.”
Benitez said he understands that LA Unified is required by law to provide space to charters, and his main issue isn’t with LA Unified, it’s with ICEF for requesting Stoner.
“LAUSD has to follow the law. However, it’s ICEF that chose Stoner Elementary; that is why we are pressuring them. They can choose another place. LAUSD’s hand are tied,” Benitez said.
Mandell was asked if ICEF requesting the Stoner location was a good idea, considering the history of aggressive opposition to co-locations at the campus.
“I don’t think the question is if it was a good idea to co-locate a school there,” Mandell said. “I think the question is how can we create an environment so that the two schools are collaborating effectively, which we have seen time and time again at plenty of other schools. And the opposite of that is having a protest on the first day of school.”
* UPDATED to reflect the schools are located in Del Rey, not Mar Vista