The Culver City Unified School District, which has long suffered from declining enrollment, may be forced to reopen one of three closed elementary schools because of an unexpected jump in its younger student population.
Supt. Curtis Rethmeyer recommended last week that the district reopen a school to make room for students from the "mini baby boom"--the children of parents who were born after World War II.
Rethmeyer said Culver City's surge in enrollment "seems to be spread evenly throughout all areas of the city and is not concentrated in any particular ethnic group."
This year, the Linwood Howe and Farragut elementary schools were forced to add portable classrooms to accommodate new students.
School officials predicted that the increase will continue at an annual rate of 3% to 5% until 1989. Elementary school enrollment has grown from 1,531 in the 1983-84 school year to about 1,700 this year. Rethmeyer said the district expects to have more than 1,800 students by the 1988-89 school year.
Rethmeyer asked the board to consider reopening one of three schools that were closed during the last six years. They are:
Linda Vista School, a small elementary school in a geographically isolated pocket of the district known as Blair Hills. The school is being leased by the Baptist Temple.
Washington School, another small school, in the district's eastern section. The school is being leased by the Oral Education Center, a school for the hearing impaired. The center has asked for an extension of its lease, which expires June 30, 1988.
El Marino School, a large, centrally located school and the site of the district's continuation high school. It is also being leased by the Landmark School, which specializes in students with learning disabilities. Landmark's lease expires Aug. 14, 1988.
As alternatives to the proposal to reopen a school, officials have suggested adding more portable classrooms, adjusting the school calendar and curtailing before- and after-school programs.
School board member Robert Knopf said he is reluctant to reopen one of the district's surplus schools. "I feel the pain that so many people went through in dealing with closing schools," he said. "Is it really a long-term solution, or are we going to reopen a school just to go through the same pain of closing it again?"
School board member Julie Lugo Cerra said she is opposed to moving more portable classrooms onto playgrounds. "It bothers me to think that we are cutting out playground space to put classrooms. Children need playgrounds to let off a little steam at recess," she said. "We need to look in the direction of reopening a school."
The board asked Rethmeyer to return in January with several options for relieving the projected overcrowding.
If a school is to be reopened, Rethmeyer said, El Marino is the most likely candidate because it can accommodate 500 students and is centrally located, at 11450 Port Road.
The district estimates that it would cost $150,000 a year to operate one of the closed schools. Rethmeyer has suggested using state lottery money because the district cannot qualify for any additional state funds.
The elementary school enrollment has been offset by decreases in high school enrollment. In fact, overall enrollment is expected to continue decline from 4,571 in 1986 to 4,529 in the 1988-89 school year.