When Ken Brown finishes teaching his last class of the day at Marshall High School, he doesn't have to walk across campus to faculty offices as do many other teachers in Los Angeles schools.
Instead, Brown, who teaches educationally handicapped students at the Silver Lake campus, merely opens a sliding door and steps onto the classroom's outdoor balcony, where he keeps his desk, file cabinets, telephone and other office necessities.
"Sometimes the flies get kind of bad out here," Brown said from his balcony office which, along with the classroom, was originally a faculty lounge. "But it's a cozy little spot. There's really no other place on campus, no available room."
Brown's situation is just one example of crowding in Northeast Los Angeles schools, which have experienced a slow but steady influx of new students in recent years, particularly from Asian countries and Central America. The area is projected to be one of the hardest hit as enrollment climbs in the district.
After years of focusing attention on crowding in schools along the Wilshire Corridor and in East and Southeast Los Angeles, the district is beginning to take steps to relieve the crowding in Northeast area schools, which school board member Larry Gonzalez said has "hit a crisis level."
The district is awaiting word on its applications for several million dollars from the State Allocations Board to buy additional land and build new classrooms for seven schools in the northeast communities of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Atwater and Eagle Rock. In addition, enrollment boundary lines in some areas are being redrawn and the district has contacted neighboring districts--including Glendale--about leasing its vacant schools.
By next month, the district should know if the various construction projects will be funded, said Max Barney, branch director of the district's state construction program. "We expect to get at least half of them," he said.
The schools that may receive funding are:
Franklin High School in Highland Park, $2.6 million for expanding the campus by 1.6 acres and building 10 new classrooms to accommodate 280 students.
Marshall High School in Silver Lake, $1.4 million for building 12 new classrooms.
Irving Junior High School in Glassell Park, $4 million to acquire 1.9 acres of land and build 13 classrooms to serve 375 students.
Buchanan Street Elementary School in Highland Park, $800,000 for eight new classrooms.
Glassell Park Elementary School in Glassell Park, $1.2 million for eight classrooms and enlargement of the cafeteria.
Loreto Street Elementary School in Echo Park, $2.4 million for eight classrooms, enlargement of the cafeteria and expansion of the outdoor lunch shelter.
Mayberry Street Elementary School in Silver Lake, $2.2 million for eight new classrooms and reconstruction of the administration building.
The district also received tentative state approval for a $155-million project to relieve crowding in Westlake District schools that draw students from the Silver Lake and Echo Park. Under that plan, one high school will be built in the Westlake District, as will one junior high and four elementary schools. Six other schools will be significantly expanded.
The Westlake area's Belmont High School, along with the grammar schools and junior highs that feed students to it, are the most crowded n Los Angeles. Their total enrollment is now about 28,500 students, a 32% increase since 1979, said Belmont High Principal John Howard.
Busing Cut Possible
If approved, all the plans will relieve crowding in Northeast Los Angeles schools and possibly cut back on the number of students, now 2,500, who are bused from the area to other schools, said Byron Kimball, director of the district's school facilities services branch.
"We've got some schools out there that are seriously overcrowded, and, give it five years, all the schools would be bursting at the seams," Kimball said. "It's really a never-ending problem and we're never going to completely catch up, but if we get this money, things will be looking a whole lot better."
In the past, the district has relied on traditional methods for easing crowding. These include: purchasing portable classrooms, capping enrollment and busing the additional students to other schools in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, and keeping the schools open year-round.
Districtwide, officials predict that enrollment in Los Angeles schools will increase by 70,000--about 12%--in the next five years and that about one-fourth of the additional students will live in the area served by Northeast schools.
"I think the Northeast area is really now feeling the major effects of overcrowding," said school board member Jackie Goldberg. "It's starting to get out of control."
Some schools have been affected by more than others in Northeast Los Angeles. Since 1977, overall enrollment in area schools has risen 7.5%, but at many schools the increase has been more than 30%.