Sunday, December 23, 2007


Daily News Editorial

December 17, 2007 - Slowly - way too slowly - but surely, Los Angeles city and school leaders are inching toward a common-sense plan that would benefit communities immeasurably: After hours, when schools aren't being used for instruction, they would be open for countless other uses.

Imagine: Playgrounds could be parks. Classrooms could be community meeting rooms. Arts and athletic facilities could enrich cultural and fitness opportunities for everyone.

This is, by the way, not just fantasy, but what the Los Angeles Unified School District promised voters when we approved billions of dollars in school bonds over recent years. The new campuses, we were told, would be hubs for community life.

But bureaucracy has a way of interfering with common sense. District and city officials have squabbled over liability, operation and maintenance costs. Never mind that the people paying the costs - L.A. taxpayers - are the same, regardless of whether the bill goes through the LAUSD or City Hall.

Fortunately that is changing ... slowly.

On Wednesday the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan to expand agreements with the LAUSD to keep schools open for the public on nights and weekends. Under the proposal, a master joint-use agreement will be developed, and the school board is set to take up a similar proposal soon.

But the progress is only incremental. Currently the city and school district operate just 30 joint-use sites, and the new plan would create only 17 more. Given the size of the LAUSD and the enormity of its real-estate portfolio, that's barely a drop in the bucket.

Still, a small start is a start. City and school officials must keep working to make L.A.'s resources available to all Angelenos.

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