ROSEMEAD — Faced with increased pressure from unhappy residents, the Garvey Elementary School District board has withdrawn its support for a high school site near Whittier Narrows and has asked the Alhambra High School District to further study the impact of building a campus in the southern part of this city.
The Garvey board voted unanimously to withdraw its support of the 40-acre site on the eastern edge of the Garvey district after more than 200 residents voiced displeasure with the site selection process at a March 4 meeting. The residents expressed concern that the Alhambra district restricted its site search to south Rosemead and did not seriously consider building in Monterey Park, where they contend that growth is greater.
The residents were particularly upset about Alhambra's inclusion of the 1,000-student Fern Elementary and Intermediate School complex as another possible site for the new high school, prompting the Garvey board members to vote not to sell the site. The Garvey board also decided to ask the Alhambra district to establish a committee that will include south Rosemead residents and will restudy the high school site issue from a district-wide perspective.
Five Sites Considered
The Whittier Narrows and Fern sites are among five south Rosemead locations being considered by the Alhambra district, which serves high school students from the Garvey, Alhambra and San Gabriel elementary school districts.
Alhambra is seeking to relieve overcrowded conditions at its existing high schools, where 10,000 students attend facilities designed to accommodate 7,000.
The Alhambra district operates four high schools--Alhambra, Mark Keppel, San Gabriel and Century Continuation school--all in Alhambra.
The Alhambra district would prefer to build the new school on a 42.6-acre site on Graves Avenue across from the Maryvale Orphanage, the spot already approved by the state. But that site has been vehemently opposed by the Garvey district, Rosemead city officials and residents partly because it would require the purchase of 174 residential properties, including the home of Garvey School Board President Gilbert R. Barron.
The other two sites under consideration are the Los Angeles Dealer Auto Auction north of Garvey Avenue on Del Mar Avenue, and an adjacent parcel on Whitmore Street between Del Mar and San Gabriel Boulevard.
Alhambra school district officials said they have not been officially notified of the Garvey board's actions, but they reiterated their longstanding position that the Garvey district needs a high school and that south Rosemead is the most logical place for it. Eight of the 12 Garvey schools, including both intermediate schools, are in south Rosemead. The other four are in Monterey Park and San Gabriel.
"This is where the school needs to be," Alhambra Supt. Bruce Peppin said. "This is the area that is underserved." About 2,800 of Alhambra's high school students come from the Garvey district, Peppin said.
State Funds Promised
The situation is likely to come to a head soon because Alhambra officials say they expect to make a decision on the high school site in the next two weeks. The district is eager to pick a site because the state already has agreed to pay 85% of the $50-million cost of the school, which is expected to take five or six years to complete.
The Alhambra district does not need Garvey's approval on a site, although it cannot force the sale of the Fern School property. However, Alhambra may face some legal obstacles because the Garvey district is considering hiring attorneys to "take whatever action is necessary to represent our interests," Barron said.
Residents of south Rosemead have grown increasingly vocal in their opposition to the proposed south Rosemead sites, especially Fern School.
"What are we going to do with those 1,000 students?" said Jess Gonzales, who has been active in youth sports activities on the campus.
While many contend that the new school should be built in Monterey Park, where they say the most growth is being generated, others are concerned because their homes are included in the sites and they might be forced to sell their property. Some just say they want more voice in the selection process.
On Friday, about 50 angry residents picketed the Alhambra district's 100th anniversary ceremony at the Lincoln Plaza Hotel in Monterey Park.
"The people are very concerned that their homes are under a cloud," said Estelle Holtz, a community activist in south Rosemead who helped organize the pickets. "The reason for picketing is to let Alhambra know it's their board that is the problem."
Barron and most of his fellow board members say they are not absolutely opposed to a site somewhere in south Rosemead, but they insist that the Alhambra district should look at overall district needs, including Monterey Park, before narrowing its search to south Rosemead.
Changed His Position