The fears of the Laurel Span School community that a new proposed middle school would be on their campus have been alleviated. Fairfax High School, however, is still being considered as a site.
On Nov. 14, a letter from Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Nick Melvoin, 4th District, and Cheryl Hildreth, superintendent of LAUSD’s Local District West, which includes the West Hollywood and Fairfax areas, confirmed that “the proposed new program will not be located on the Laurel campus.”
Laurel will now be allowed to focus fully on the cinematic arts magnet program it will begin in the fall.
“We just want to be left alone so we can do this project we’ve been working on for so long,” Laurel Span teacher George Reyes said.
If Fairfax High School is selected as the site of the new middle school, which has a working name of the West Hollywood-Fairfax Academy, two programs currently on the campus – the Career and Transition Center West and Fairfax Police Academy Magnet – will likely be relocated, CTC teachers Royce Viso and Barbara Jefferson said. The police magnet would likely move to a less desirable space on campus, while CTC would be moved elsewhere within the district, said Aris Biegler, United Teachers Los Angeles chapter chair for Fairfax High. An LAUSD spokesperson did not answer questions about the WHFA before press time.
The new middle school is expected to be considered by the LAUSD board on Dec. 3. The board will debate the recommendation of Local District West, which Viso and Jefferson said appears to be in support of the Fairfax High site as opposed to another option school district officials have publicly discussed, West Hollywood Community Day School.
Jefferson said she learned about the potential relocation through flyers she discovered by chance. Jefferson said when she brought the information on the flyers to her principal’s attention earlier this month, a meeting with LAUSD officials was quickly announced.
At that meeting on Nov. 14, some members of CTC’s faculty and staff were told about the move, and parents were informed at a meeting the next day, Jefferson said.
Jefferson said school district officials apologized to the CTC’s staff for the communication issues. Melvoin and Hildreth acknowledged similar issues with “this process of engagement” in their letter to the Laurel community.
“[District officials] said they made a misstep and going forward, they would do better,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson said the CTC’s 84 students were informed in a school-wide meeting on the afternoon of Nov. 15, and the reaction was mixed. Some students were in favor of relocating, she said, but others were staunchly opposed.
“When I talked to my students when we came back to class, a couple of them were definitely very agitated, [saying] ‘I don’t want to move, I don’t want to move,’” she said.
Viso said the CTC, which teaches job and independent living skills to 18- to 22-year-olds with autism, intellectual disabilities and other special needs, was promised a new home “as good or better” than their current site at Fairfax by school district officials.
The current site is not ideal, Viso said, but in the three years the program has been at Fairfax High, the CTC has developed relationships with nearby businesses, providing job training opportunities for students, such as feeding pets at local pet stores and working at Walgreens and the nearby Greenway Court Theatre. Those relationships help provide students with work experience in the community, Viso said, which is one of the CTC’s goals.
“‘As good or better’ includes the neighborhood, because we need to end up in a community that is rich with job opportunities for our students. If we end up in a neighborhood with no nearby businesses, it’s not going to work,” Viso said.
Viso and Jefferson criticized the timing of the board’s vote, since so many stakeholders have only learned of the potential changes a few weeks before the Dec. 3 meeting.
“Not only is it around the corner, but it’s directly following Thanksgiving break, when nobody’s around to talk about this stuff,” Viso said.
On Friday, Nov. 22, teachers associated with UTLA, parents and students will protest the proposed relocation from 7:15 to 7:45 a.m., Biegler said.
The protesters will wear red and make their displeasure known for the arrival of Melvoin, who is expected to attend the Coffee with the Principal event scheduled for 8 a.m. that morning.
Biegler said he’s heard from parents and students who are concerned about the futures of the two programs at Fairfax High.
“I get it if you don’t tell the teachers; we’re employees,” Biegler said. “But the parents should have known.”
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