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Critics Hit Proposal to Sell School in El Monte

May 31, 1987|DENISE-MARIE SANTIAGO | Times Staff Writer and

The possible sale of an El Monte school has sparked a controversy in a district that is grappling with overcrowding and about to start year-round classes at two schools.

"The problem is that our schools are in the wrong location," said Duane Dishno, district superintendent.

A feasibility study has been authorized by the El Monte City School District Board of Education to determine whether to sell the 39-year-old Gidley School to the Vons Companies Inc. Vons' corporate headquarters is next to Gidley on East Lower Azusa Road.

Since the 1981-82 school year, enrollment in the district, which includes parts of El Monte, Temple City and Arcadia, has risen from 8,500 to 10,500 students. Officials predict that it will hit 13,000 by 1991.

While schools in the southern part of the district are bursting at the seams, Gidley, to the north, is losing enrollment.

Only 246 Live There

A total of 703 students attend Gidley, which serves kindergarten through eighth-grade students. But of those 703 students, only 246 live in the immediate area of the school.

On the other hand, Dishno pointed to Potrero School, a kindergarten through eighth-grade facility in the southern part of the district. That school was built to accommodate 400 students, he said, but serves 1,000. Another 200 who live in the attendance area are bused to other schools. Additions have been built at Potrero, and trailers used as classrooms occupy much of the playground space to accommodate the overflow.

Such overcrowding is reason enough not to sell Gidley, parents say.

"They (school officials) are already complaining that the district is overcrowded," said Robert V. Peviani, who has three children that attend Gidley. "Now, after telling us that they don't have enough space with the schools that they have, they tell us they want to sell one of them. It makes me wonder. Are they misleading us when they tell us they don't have enough space?"

Other parents are angry that the district is considering the sale before deciding where the Gidley students would attend classes.

"Will my kids be moving north to Temple City schools, east to El Monte schools or south to El Monte schools?" asked Lynn Spenser, president of the Gidley School Parent-Teacher Assn. "What happens to our kids?"

Parents Form Committee

Spenser and about 20 other parents have formed a committee called Save Our School (SOS), which plans to act as a watchdog group during the negotiating process and "ask questions until we understand," she said.

The group Wednesday began canvassing homes within the school's enrollment boundaries to determine how many children live in the area so that they can predict future enrollment at the school.

Parents of Gidley students contend that the district could use the school to ease overcrowding elsewhere.

But school officials said that busing students to Gidley from other parts of the district would be too expensive.

Besides financial concerns, Dishno said that "a lot of parents don't like the idea of busing their kids across town."

Dishno said that although the district has begun discussions with Vons, several issues must be addressed, including demographic studies of the area and enrollment patterns, before the district can decide whether to sell the school.

"I really can't say whether the whole idea has merit," Dishno said. "We have a number of concerns that must be answered. A lot of them are the same questions that the parents have."

Officials Approach City

Vons officials said they approached the city seeking locations for expanding their corporate headquarters, which has been in El Monte since 1959. They said they were told by city officials that Gidley might be closed.

Gidley and the adjacent headquarters are in a proposed redevelopment project area. If the designation is approved, the city's Redevelopment Agency could spend money to improve the area, help existing businesses and attract new businesses.

"What we want to do is redevelop certain areas of lower Azusa," said City Administrator Gregory D. Korduner, who added that it could take up to a year for the proposed redevelopment area to be approved.

On April 28, Vons officials formally expressed a desire to buy the school at a board study session, according to David Reed, a board member.

The company, currently doing corporate business at three different locations in the city, is "committed to getting everyone under one roof," said Mary McAboy , director of investor relations for Vons. "Vons as a company has grown so much. We just physically have run out of space.

"If the board votes it down, Vons will pursue looking at other properties and that will include looking in El Monte and other areas (outside the city)."

4-1 Vote on Study

Spenser said that many parents believe that some members of the board, which authorized the feasibility study on a 4-1 vote, have already made up their minds to sell the school.

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