Ocean Charter School Seeks Support to Remain on Mar Vista Campus: Ocean Charter School struggles to deal with an LAUSD proposal that could see its school forced off the campus it has shared with Walgrove Elementary for the past four and a half years.
By Kelly Hartog | Mar Vista Patch |http://bit.ly/oHolYz
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August 17, 2011 - Board members and parents of students at Ocean Charter School say they were surprised when the Los Angeles Unified School District announced its proposal on June 21 to lease two acres of land at Walgrove Avenue Elementary to a charter school.
OCS’s north campus has housed its 4th through 8th grade classes on Walgrove’s premises for four and a half years, and the school has been lobbying the LAUSD to be able to bring its south campus (K through 3) – currently housed in space on Culver Boulevard in Del Rey – to Walgrove.
“All of a sudden this intent to lease came out for the exact site that we wanted to have for our school,” said Gary Adler, a parent of two boys at OCS. “We’re all worried that we’re not being considered, that our 200 plus students and faculty will literally be kicked to the curb and there is no contingency plan.”
LAUSD will release its Request for Proposal on Sept. 15, and charter schools will have 45 days to respond.
OCS parents’ greatest concern is that LAUSD is in close talks with Green Dot Charter Schools – a large charter organization that had unsuccessfully sought to utilize space at both Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista and Westminster Elementary School in Venice.
“Walgrove is the last frontier,” Adler said. “We’re just one school, not a franchise. Now we’re fighting a giant corporation and it feels like the process is not transparent and not fair.”
Adler also stated (but couldn’t confirm) that the RFP would not allow K through 5 classes on the site. “That would exclude us from uniting our campuses,” he said.
Kami Cotler, who was one of the founding members of OCS and who is now the principal at Environmental Charter Middle School in Inglewood, told Patch that the situation is not easy for either OCS or LAUSD.
“LAUSD is in a difficult position because [through Prop 39] it has to give space to charter school students and it’s an incredibly difficult mandate to fulfill.”
She also noted that while OCS has been fortunate to remain on Walgrove’s premises, as a Prop 39 school it has to renew its lease every year.
“LAUSD can’t make non transparent decisions,” Cotler said. “It can’t unilaterally give the property to Ocean Charter. There has to be a process, just as there was when Ocean Charter came to Walgrove.”
Cotler said how LAUSD move forward with the RFP is the time when things can become political. “They have to make decisions they can defend and arguments can be made in either direction [for OCS or Green Dot].”
In a worst-case scenario, Cotler said even if OCS loses the bid, LAUSD is still legally obligated to find a new home for Ocean Charter.
“It still wouldn’t be a complete shut down,” she said. “It would mean closing classes and dismissing all those teachers, which would be a catastrophe but it wouldn’t be the end of Ocean Charter.”
Cotler added that while she agreed that Green Dot is a much bigger and a more politically active body than Ocean Charter, which is run by parents, she said Ocean Charter has a lot of very passionate parents.
“I would never underestimate Ocean Charter parents when they put their minds together. The south campus (on Culver Boulevard) is beautiful and that’s the parents’ work. Imagine what’s possible if you give that community some leeway to manifest its creative power.”
For now, parents and board members are out in force trying to drum up support (see attached letter to the right).
“We’ve gone door to door to find out what the concerns are of neighbors over the intent to lease and if there are any problems with our school being there now,” Adler said.
On Tuesday night OCS asked the Venice Neighborhood Council to submit a letter of support to LAUSD requesting that OCS be given the space at Walgrove. That request was turned down as being premature.
Ocean Charter is hoping the fact that it is deeply embedded in the community will help both the LAUSD and local area residents see that the over 200 students at OCS north campus should be able to stay on the Walgrove campus and expand to bring the 250 plus students from the south campus to the site.
“The real fact is that 78 of our families live within a few blocks of the school,” said Adler. “All the kids know each other; they play hockey at the Mar Vista Park; the kids are a community.”
“We are actively, majorly involved in the community, both with parents and non parents,” said Joshua Dome who lives within a block of Walgrove and volunteers as a community liaison representative on OCS’s Board of Directors.
“Something in the range of 60 percent of our north campus families are Mar Vista or Venice residents. They are invested in keeping the neighborhood viable,” he said.
Cotler agreed. “[OCS] is awesome and the parents and children are incredibly happy. Ocean Charter is a small, homey school and Green Dot is a much bigger organization. I’d rather have the [neighbors] I know than the [neighbors] I don’t know.”