By Rob Kuznia Staff Writer, Daily Breeze | http://bit.ly/TTfwx8
Updated: 10/29/2012 10:14:25 PM PDT :: When Marlene Canter, a former Los Angeles school board member, first came up with the idea to build a brand new elementary school in Playa Vista, some people called her crazy, arguing that the Westside neighborhood lacked the density to support a new school.
On Monday, the brand-new Playa Vista Elementary School just off Lincoln Boulevard held its official grand opening ceremony, complete with statements from politicians, educators, parents and students - many of whom were not yet born when the plan to build the school was conceived.
The road from start to finish was rife with obstacles and controversy.
Speaking before an audience of about 200 people Monday afternoon, Canter said the skepticism of her colleagues on the Los Angeles Unified School District board was understandable.
"We're talking about a district and people who lived in severely overcrowded areas," she said. "In Koreatown, we built many schools in one small area. So for them to envision that there was a need for a school on the Westside by the ocean ... it was just beyond their thinking.
"It took the parents - my constituents - and their strollers, and many, many pregnant moms (to) convince the school board that, yes, this was going to be a community for children and for families, and that they needed a school here."
Canter added that the school kicked off its inaugural year this August with five kindergarten classes.
"That tells you the kind of need we have for a school," she said.
Officials claim that Playa Vista Elementary - a magnet school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math - is one of the nation's most environmentally friendly schools. Among its sustainable features are the recycled carpet, use of recycled rainwater, solar panels and 32 miles of underground piping for a geothermal heating system.
"This is really a once-in-a-lifetime project for an architect," said Michael Pinto, design principal with the Glendale-based firm Osborn Architects.
Playa Vista Elementary is among about 130 new schools built under a $1.5 billion LAUSD initiative to ensure that all children in the district have the option of attending a neighborhood school. About 20 of those schools - including Playa Vista - opened this fall.
The campus is built in the shadow of a hill upon which sits Loyola Marymount University, which has entered into a partnership with the campus and LAUSD to provide professional training for teachers as well as program support on some of the school's urban ecology and environmental programs. In return, Westchester-based LMU faculty and staff are allowed to enroll their children.
Plans for the school date all the way back to 1993, when it became apparent that Playa Vista's massive housing component would likely lead to an influx of hundreds if not thousands of school-age children.
A decade later, officials were agonizing over several environmental concerns. The school's 4-acre lot, for instance, included an area where Hughes Aircraft employees used to conduct firefighting drills on fuselages, stoking fears that chemical solvents may have seeped into the ground. Others fretted about the pockets of methane in the area.
Questions also arose as to whether the site was located above an American Indian burial ground.
One by one, the kinks were worked out.
Among the luminaries present on Monday afternoon was U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a veteran South Bay Democrat who represents in the area.
"It is so special to have something really good going on at Los Angeles Unified School District we can brag about for a change," Waters said