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School Chief Answers 'Home Grab' Criticism

August 16, 1987

This is in response to Sam Hall Kaplan's article "Schools Fail to Justify Home Grab" (Aug. 2).

1--He stated that new school sites were reduced from 42 to 30 and that the 12 remaining sites were "spared."

The fact is that the identification of locations for the remaining 12 new school sites has been postponed only until the passage of the pending Roos Bill, which will allow the district incentives to build schools on less acreage than would now be required.

2--He stated that the 22 schools closed between 1982 and 1984 were an indication of the district's failure to plan for a growing enrollment.

He did not make mention that the 22 schools are many miles away from the overcrowded neighborhoods.

3--He stated that the district's need to construct schools is based on the fact that the state has made available "a few hundred million dollars of construction funds" and further that these funds could "nicely pad a bureaucracy from periodic budget cuts."

It should be noted that these funds generated through the State Allocation Board can be used only for the project for which they were requested.

4--He stated that questions asked by the "targeted communities," such as why homes must be taken for school playgrounds, often used for parking, have not been answered.

Members of the Board of Education and district staff have met numerous times with community groups regarding such issues. It should be noted that the City of Los Angeles requires the district to provide off-street parking for teachers at the rate of one parking space per classroom.

5--He stated that the district has not worked with the city Planning Department, and further, that the city planners are just now beginning to ask questions about school district plans.

Documentation is available that will support district efforts to work with city planning officers and with the commission on these specific sites.

Further, in its desire to improve the school site selection process, the Board of Education has adopted a new set of guidelines which specifically includes the city Planning Department staff early in the process of identifying and evaluating sites. Concurrently, the city Planning Department staff is developing a plan of action which similarly envisions the early inclusion of department personnel in the school planning process. Both agencies are committed to interaction beginning at the preliminary stages of planning school facilities.

One final point:

Even if the demographic studies of future student enrollment developed by Criterion Inc., and district staff were not to be considered, the fact remains that the number of students who cannot be accommodated today at schools in their neighborhood fully justifies the district's housing efforts.

LEONARD M. BRITTON

Los Angeles

Britton is superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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