LYNWOOD — A group attempting to prevent the local school district from condemning the private Lynwood Adventist Academy and building a public high school on the campus has announced an aggressive plan to take their efforts "to the streets, to the City Council" and to "the Supreme Court," if necessary.
"We are stepping up the pressure," said Joseph F. Dent Jr., chairman of STOPPS (Stop Taking Our Private Parochial Schools), formed to block condemnation proceedings by the Lynwood Unified School District.
In December, the Lynwood school board voted to condemn the school buildings and athletic field on the 20-acre academy property. The site includes a high school, an elementary school and a church. The district is also seeking to acquire 12 acres next to the athletic field that now house two vacant grocery stores.
The STOPPS group has scheduled "peaceful protest" marches throughout this month. The first will take place at 2 p.m. today when supporters will march from the school at 11081 Harris Ave. throughout of the Lynwood community.
The tentative plan calls for the marchers to pass in front of the five board members' homes to try and get them to change their votes.
Board President Helen Andersen said in an interview last week that the protest is probably too late.
"We held public hearings (last fall). It would be difficult to backtrack," said Andersen.
Condemnation proceedings are now in court against both the academy property and the Sterik Company of West Los Angeles, which owns the other 12 acres in the 42000 block of Imperial Highway, according to a spokesperson for the district.
On Tuesday, STOPPS will march to the Lynwood City Hall to confront council members during their regular meeting, Dent said.
The council will be asked to declare the school, a historic monument, Dent said. The school was built in 1936 and is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
If the city declared the site a historic monument, Dent said, the academy's supporters believe the city could impose strict limitations on the school district to prevent development of the property.
Councilman Robert Henning said he supports that effort. He said he will request that the city's attorney research the matter "to see what we can do about it.
Henning said he opposes the school district taking any property in the city to build another high school. He said he believes the district should build on its present high school property on Bullis Road.
More Marches Planned
"I think the district should build another story on the existing high school structure. They should build a two-story high school," Henning said.
Dent said STOPPS supporters also will march to the school board meeting on July 28 and appeal again for the school district to stop condemnation proceedings against the property.
"We have talked to board members in private. We have also presented petitions with 2,000 signatures against the condemnation. Some members have expressed some flexibility in their attitude toward the school," said Dent, who is a resident of Lynwood and principal of the Union Seventh-day Adventist School in Los Angeles.
The district says the new school is urgently needed to relieve overcrowding at Lynwood High, which was built to accommodate 1,500 students but now holds nearly 3,000.
Dent says the academy's supporters do not disagree that another public high school is needed in this predominantly black and Latino city of 54,000.
But Dent said the private school, which has a combined enrollment of nearly 800 students in the elementary and high schools, serves a useful service to the community. The enrollment is about 75% black, 20% Latino and 5% Asian, he said. About 86% of the academy graduates to on to college, Dent said.
"We're making an outstanding contribution to the community, and they want to boot us out," he said.
Dent said the group will pursue the issue wherever it leads.
"If the district can take over our little private school, what does this mean for every private school in America?" Dent said. "We will fight back. We'll go all the way to the Supreme Court on this."