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Norwalk-La Mirada District Growth Study : Schools Think They Can Handle Pupil Boomlet

May 25, 1986|CARMEN VALENCIA | Times Staff Writer

When the Norwalk-La Mirada School District realized it would need to reopen an elementary school this fall--after closing 15 schools in 15 years--its board members began to worry whether a new trend was taking hold.

Was there a baby boom building that would drastically change the need for additional classrooms in coming years? Would the district need to plan for major redistricting of school attendance zones? Could the district plan to sell or lease some of its closed school sites--especially Excelsior High School?

Last week, after getting a preview of a $9,000 study to answer those questions, the board members received a few answers.

First, there is no baby boom in the district, but there might very well be a boomlet that would add about 15,000 people to Norwalk by the year 2000, with a similar growth rate in La Mirada.

Kevin McCarthy, an independent demographer hired to do the study, told the trustees in a presentation that because both cities are nearly completely developed, there is little room for growth. Based on 1980-1986 growth patterns, McCarthy said, the school district could expect moderate migration into the cities coupled with moderate fertility rates.

"The two cities are well settled out. There is not much more room for development," said McCarthy, who will deliver the final report later.

Housing Projects in the Works

Mike Wagner, Norwalk's director of redevelopment, said the city is 90% to 95% developed, with four major housing projects coming up. But the projects will mainly consist of condominiums, which will "generate some students, but not enough to skew projections."

In La Mirada, almost all of the vacant land is in an industrial area that will never be used for housing, said City Manager Gary Sloan. He said 900 single-family dwellings will be built in the near future but he does not foresee further growth in available housing. The city "is not very dense. That's the way we'd like to keep it."

McCarthy said it "seems likely" that the district will see a gradual increase in children, but "not anywhere above their capacity."

Moderate growth, McCarthy said, would mean that the school population--now at 18,000--will reach 23,000 by the year 2000. Howard Rainey, district administrator of business services, said that the district can now house up to 30,000 students if it uses all of its closed sites.

"We're in good shape," said board member Lucille Colln "Enrollment will grow, but we'll have enough sites" to accommodate the growth, she said.

Made No Commitments

But while Colln and other board members said they are glad there are no projections for major population growth, they committed themselves to nothing in regard to closed school sites.

The City of Norwalk and Grace Korean Church shared the cost of McCarthy's study because they want the school district to declare Excelsior, which was closed in 1981, as surplus property. The district has been reluctant, saying that the site might be needed to accommodate future student populations.

Excelsior sits on a spacious 38-acre site on Alondra and Pioneer boulevards. It now houses a multitude of organizations, including the 2,500-member Grace Korean Church.

Supt. Bruce Newlin told the city and church officials that the board of trustees has not come to any conclusions about "disposing of any piece of property."

Jesse Luera, a board member who works as assistant to the city manager/social services in Norwalk, said that although the study showed the district would probably not "be needing a third high school" in Norwalk, he thinks the district should retain ownership and attempt a long-term lease with the church and the city.

Large Sanctuary Wanted

The Grace Korean Church, which now holds services in the school's auditorium, has expressed interest in building a 10,000-seat sanctuary. But the church does not want to undertake that investment on a short-term lease, officials said.

The city has been interested in refurbishing the auditorium, gymnasium and athletic field for community use, city officials said.

"There's so much potential for those facilities," said City Councilman Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez. He said the city has been "kind of pushing (the district) to make some kind of decision."

Shin Cho, a deacon with the Korean church, said the church will take a wait-and-see attitude before making any further plans. Although only 50 members live in Norwalk, Cho said church officials like the location and will work with the city and district to come up with a mutual arrangement to lease the site on a long-term basis.

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