WEST COVINA — The brouhaha surrounding the closure of Edgewood High School, which has ensnared the school district for five months, caught the City Council this week when it considered a plan to add the school site to a redevelopment area.
The council finally dropped Edgewood's inclusion, placating parents who feared that it would lead to the sale of the campus.
Edgewood and three other school sites were targeted by the city Redevelopment Agency staff for addition to the Eastland Redevelopment Project Area. The high school--along with the district's closed Tonopah, El Dorado and Del Norte campuses--were listed as part of a 1,100-acre expansion of the project area the agency hopes to eventually redevelop.
The high school's possible inclusion angered residents who have fought a West Covina Unified School Board decision to turn Edgewood into the district's middle school. Hollencrest and Willowood junior high schools and Cortez Elementary School will also be closed as part of a consolidation plan, which will make West Covina High School the district's sole campus for grades seven through 12 next year.
The financially squeezed school district, which owes the state $3.3 million because of a deficit last year, sold its closed Tonopah and El Dorado school sites this year, and will reap more than $11.5 million plus interest.
School officials said they plan to use Edgewood as a middle school indefinitely.
"There are people who feel the district intends to close Edgewood and sell it," said H. C. Tanner, assistant superintendent for business affairs. "That is not in our plans."
At the Monday council meeting, speakers voiced fears that including Edgewood in the project area would be the first step in closing the school permanently.
"The program and the operation of the Edgewood Middle School is intended to be in existence for multi-years and any discussion or action implying that any other application may be made of the site is insensitive, inconsiderate and incomprehensible," said Lollie Bergman, a school activist.
Redevelopment Agency staff member Karan Johnson said Edgewood should be included to give the city more control over future development of the school site, should any take place. By declaring it part of the Eastland area, she said, the city would receive substantial tax revenues from any development.
Although Edgewood was not added to the redevelopment project area, the council did agree to include Tonopah, El Dorado and Del Norte in the project.
Tanner said the action should not affect the recent sale of either Tonopah or El Dorado.
"Having the areas included in a redevelopment increases the value of that property to the district." he said about the Del Norte site.
Mayor Nancy Manners, noting the community opposition, suggested dropping the campus from the redevelopment project. Her suggestion was backed by Councilmen Richard Lewis, Brad McFadden and William Tarozzi.
Declaring it unlikely the district would sell the school, Manners said: "Rather than get everyone riled up and upset about something that probably won't happen, I don't see any reason to include it."
Councilman Robert Bacon, arguing that both the city and the school district could benefit by developing part of the site, voted against her suggestion.
School board member Elias Martinez said he was relieved the area was not included, given the recent turmoil in the district.
"The perception (if Edgewood was included) would be the workings are in place to sell the school, which is not the case," he said. "This would have forced the district to appear at loggerheads with the city."