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Schools Plan's Cost Put at $4.9 Million : Reopening of 8 Valley Campuses Key to Proposal for Alleviating Crowding

October 22, 1985|THOMAS OMESTAD | Times Staff Writer

Reopening eight closed campuses in the West San Fernando Valley, a key to Los Angeles school Supt. Harry Handler's proposal to cope with increasing enrollment, will cost about $4.9 million, school officials said Monday.

Expenses will include hiring principals, clerks and custodians, cleaning the buildings, removing boards from windows and reinstating utilities, said Bill Rivera, an assistant to Handler.

Handler's plan, announced in September, calls for reopening nine schools to mitigate crowding as enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District rises by a projected 70,000 students by 1990. Of the eight schools in the West Valley, seven are elementary schools. The other is Hughes Junior High School in Woodland Hills.

The school proposed for reopening outside the Valley is Bellagio Road Elementary School in Bel-Air.

$675,000 to Reopen Hughes

The district staff estimated the average cost of reopening each elementary school at $475,000, or $185,000 when the expense of purchasing furniture and equipment is excluded, Rivera said. The cost of reopening Hughes, which is larger and more expensive to maintain, was estimated at $1.58 million, $675,000 when the cost of furniture is subtracted, he said.

When the schools were closed, the furniture was moved to other campuses in the district.

To cope with expected crowding, Handler also recommended putting schools on a year-round academic schedule and altering the district's racial-integration formula so that more minority students could be bused to schools not operating at capacity.

The board will discuss the plan next week and a final vote is expected by mid-December.

The schools proposed for reopening were among 22 closed from 1982 to 1984, when enrollment in the West Valley fell and the district was under pressure from state officials to shut down small, less cost-efficient campuses.

Means to Save Money

The closings were touted by officials as a means of saving money--between $72,000 and $81,000 a year for each elementary school and $470,000 a year for Hughes, according to the district staff. The savings in the first year after closing were somewhat less, however, district spokesman Marty Estrin said. Exact figures were not available but the actual savings have been estimated at between $33,000 to $52,000 a year for the elementary schools and $406,000 for Hughes, he said.

If the schools are reopened next year, the start-up costs in some cases may turn the hoped-for savings into losses, Estrin conceded.

"The huge increase in enrollment was not expected at the time of closing," Estrin said. "We were under heavy pressure from the state to economize."

Cheaper Than New Schools

But district officials have argued that reopening the schools would be cheaper than building new schools, and a quicker way of adding classrooms.

David Armor, the board member representing the West Valley, contended Monday that the district's estimates overstate the actual cost of reopening the schools. Armor, who favors reactivating the schools, said the figures include such costs as additional staff members and utilities that cannot be completely attributed to reopening.

"The board acted prematurely in closing those schools without looking at enrollment projections," he said.

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