Westside charter school finally finds a new home, or two
Vanessa Romo | June 13, 2014
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The long, bitter saga of a westside charter’s move to a new home after an unpleasant year at Stoner Elementary School has finally ended.
Officials representing Citizens of the World Mar Vista said yesterday they have accepted an offer from LA Unified to relocate on the campuses of two Westchester elementary schools about 1.4 miles apart, Loyola Village and Kentwood. CWC’s other option was moving to Horace Mann Middle School, about 15 miles from Stoner’s campus in Del Rey.
“Splitting our student body is not ideal, but the location of the schools offers our families a more reasonable commute than Mann Middle school,” CWC’s Los Angeles Executive Director Amy Held and CWC Mar Vista Principal Alison Kerr said in a message sent to CWC parents.
“Given our tough year at Stoner Elementary, this will be a chance to meet new friends and neighbors.”
It was a tough year, indeed. CWC co-location with Stoner was marked by arguments and acrimony, with disputes over traffic and parking as a proxy for a larger fight over co-location rights and the state law that gave rise to them a decade ago.
Despite on and off efforts by the two schools to forge a peace, friction led to accusations of bad faith, shouting and the occasional physical confrontation among parents and neighbors. The district finally told parents at both schools that CWC would not return for a second year.
After earlier deadlines came and went in an effort to find CWC a new home, CWC was facing a 4 pm deadline yesterday to accept the district’s final offer. CWC notified the district at 3:52 pm of its decision.
Even after all the controversy, CWC still wanted to remain at Stoner. That became moot when the district claimed that CWC had not officially notified the district’s Charter School Division that it wanted to stay. CWC officials said they had made their intentions clear well before a deadline.
But once that deadline passed and the district assured Stoner that CWC would not return, negotiations between the district and CWC began, with the two sides talking past each other.
In a June 7 letter to CWC Los Angeles Board Chairman Josh McLaughlin, LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy presented CWC officials with two alternatives “despite no legal obligation” to do so. “It is within the paradigm of continuously seeking to serve the best interests of all public students in Los Angeles that it is proposed,” he wrote.
The first option, which CWC had previously dismissed, was taking over nine classrooms and one administrative office at Horace Mann.
The second option was five classrooms at Loyola Village and two classrooms at Kentwood, plus room for an administrative offer at each site.
Both also required CWC to pay $50,000 for costs associated with moving.
McLaughlin responded three days later, on June 10, with a counter-proposal of three options: Staying at Stoner, moving into another school within two miles of Stoner or taking the two-campus offer but with more space.
“Unfortunately, our proposal was rejected,” the message to parents said. A request to extend yesterday’s deadline to July 1 was also rejected.
So the ordeal appears to be over, with the remaining issues for CWC the challenge of finding three additional rooms to the seven offered by the district and moving into new spaces two months before the start of the school year.
“Our hope,” Held and Kerr wrote, “is to work over the summer with the school leadership and parents at Loyola Village and Kentwood to build a positive working relationship before our students begin attending class this fall.”