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Mar Vista charter school meets with neighbors to ease tensions

Michael Janofsky | May 16, 2014

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CWC Mar Vista Charter School LAUSD

CWC Mar Vista Charter School

They came. They ate. They talked.

And they came up with a few ideas they say might work.

Four people from Citizens of the World Charter School (CWC) and four of its neighbors shared a meal at the school last night and discussed the traffic and parking problems that have angered local residents, causing friction between CWC and its co-located school, Stoner Elementary.

Alison Kerr, CWC’s principal, called it a productive exchange that could lead to easing congestion and lowering tensions.

“It was a smaller turnout than we would have liked, but we had a really fruitful discussion,” she said this morning. “We talked about some real concrete next steps that we can take between now and the last four weeks of school and before we reopen in the fall.”

For many of the schools’ neighbors, the opening of CWC this year brought with it real and psychological changes to the neighborhood, with a twice daily parade of cars to drop off and pick up children at one school while local kids generally walk to and from the other.

It has led to congestion on small streets, blocked driveways, arguments over parking and ugly confrontations. It also provided a convenient landscape for people who oppose charter schools and the state re-location policy to hawk their particular points of view.

Kerr said she believed most of the neighbors who have voiced concerns in recent months are primarily focused on traffic problems, even if others have larger issues in mind. Last night’s conversation, she said, dealt largely with traffic issues.

Among the ideas discussed, she said, were providing neighbors parking permits that would deny outsiders space and moving CWC’s entrance gate to unclog small streets.

Whether any of the ideas lead to an easing of tensions remains to be seen. Kerr said neither Adam Benitez nor his brother, Jose Benitez, whom CWC parents believe are the leaders in sowing animosities against CWC, joined neighbors at the dinner.

Adam Benitez said yesterday he would not participate, saying CWC officials had refused to answers neighbors’ questions in the past “so it’s difficult to believe what they say now.”

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