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Change Is a Way of Life for School

January 05, 1989|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Like the faces of the children on its playground, John Marshall School in Glendale is changing.

The single-story facade of the elementary school at Broadway and Chevy Chase Drive, familiar to generations, is about to become obscured.

Construction began during the Christmas break on a $2-million, 2-story classroom addition that will overshadow the old building, reconstructed in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration.

The building will add 12 classrooms to the 4-acre campus, where the student population has reached 721--and is growing.

Many of the classrooms are housed in temporary trailers tucked into nooks and crannies and encroaching on playgrounds. Classes for sixth-graders are relegated to the back lot--cutting into the running track.

Signs on doors reflect the diverse ethnicity of the student population, 80% of whom do not speak English as their primary language at home. "Welcome to Room 18," beckons one sign, then adds: " Bienvenidos al salon 18 ."

Ethnic Breakdown

Students with limited English-speaking backgrounds include 260 Armenians--the fastest-growing population--160 Latinos, 40 Koreans, 15 Vietnamese, 35 Tagalog and 70 others ranging from Farsi to Romanian. Only 15% of the students are Anglo.

Despite its diversity and overcrowding, Marshall is one of only 29 elementary schools in California named "exemplary" in 1988 by the U.S. Office of Education, an award granted to fewer than 2% of the schools in the nation.

Change is not foreign to Marshall. The school has had five different names and three different buildings since its inception in 1887. Overcrowding is a part of its history.

The first school, named Verdugo School, was built on four lots on the Marshall site and contained three classrooms, according to a historical account written by Chester Baker Lynch in 1957.

The name was changed to Glendale School in 1892, and already classroom additions were needed to accommodate the growing population.

The school was holding half-day sessions by 1904, forcing construction of the first replacement--handsome bungalows with fireplaces for heat that lasted until 1921, according to Lynch.

In 1908, the name was changed again; the school was called 4th Street, the original name of Broadway. When the street name was changed in 1912, so was the school's. It was known as Broadway School until it was named after former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in 1926.

The boom that swelled the population of Glendale in the early 1900s taxed local school facilities. Enrollment at the school was 410 by 1907 and, even though new schools were opened, the numbers kept climbing.

By 1921, voters had approved a bond issue for a handsome new schoolhouse on the Marshall site--a 2-story Colonial-style structure with four massive columns framing the grand entry stairway to Broadway. The first floor of that structure is basically preserved today.

Wayland Parsons, retired deputy superintendent of business services for the Glendale Unified School District, remembers that the second floor of the 1921 building was declared a hazard following the devastating 1933 Long Beach earthquake. The second floor and columns were removed with the help of the WPA in 1937 when a new, industrial-style entry reflecting the Moderne architecture popular in the post-Depression era was erected. The building has remained largely unchanged since.

Extensive renovations and expansions were undertaken on the arched east and west wings in 1950 and those, too, have since been mostly untouched, school officials said.

The change with the new construction will be dramatic, signaling a new era in the school's history. "The population change at Marshall School mirrors what has occurred in the community," said Vic Pallos, district director of public information.

The face is changing.

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