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Despite 24 New Rooms, High School Is Jammed

July 27, 1989|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH GATE — About 400 students who were bused to other schools last year to relieve overcrowded conditions at South Gate High School have returned to 24 newly constructed classrooms and found their old year-round campus as crowded as ever.

Due to an increase in the number of new students, school officials are dealing with the same old overcrowding headaches.

The cafeteria is always filled to capacity. Hallway and physical education lockers are shared by as many as three students. Five minutes have been added to the school day to fit in all of the school's activities, according to Assistant Principal Howard Lappin.

Because of the increasing student population, school officials predict that by the next school year more than 400 will be bused to other schools to relieve the crowded conditions.

"We can't build fast enough," said Rodger Friermuth, the Los Angeles Unified School District's project manager for school planning.

There is no more room to construct buildings on the 56-year-old campus that was built to accommodate 1,600 students, Friermuth said.

In a continuing effort to relieve overcrowded conditions in the predominantly Latino campus, the district is proposing to build a regional high school in an industrial area of the city. However, ground contamination in the area under consideration must be cleaned up.

It could be more than five years before a new high school is constructed, Friermuth said.

During the 1988-89 academic year, a total of 3,186 students attended the three different tracks or semester sessions at South Gate High. This year, the 1989-90 school period, officials estimate that the total will jump to 3,700 by the time the last track starts in September.

Because two tracks simultaneously attend classes, there are nearly 2,500 students on campus at any given time.

"The new classrooms will not stop busing," Lappin said. "By 1990, we'll probably be busing as many students as we did last year."

The school has been busing students for more than eight years because of crowded conditions.

During 1988-89, an estimated 600 students were bused to four different schools in the Los Angeles district, including Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades. The three other schools were in the San Fernando Valley.

Students Given Choice

With the opening of the 24 new classrooms, which cost $3.2 million to build, the 400 students being bused were given a choice of returning to South Gate High or remaining in other schools.

Of the students being bused last year, only 200, mostly seniors, chose not to return, Lappin said.

However, Teresa Casillas, 17, was one senior who did come back. An overcrowded South Gate High was a welcome relief to Casillas and the other returning students.

"I got tired of getting up at 4 a.m. to ride the bus," said Casillas, who was bused more than 30 miles to Palisades High School.

Anxious to be closer to her South Gate home, Casillas gave up her summer vacation to enroll at South Gate High, which started a new semester July 3.

"Sharing lockers with two other students," Casillas said, is better than getting up before dawn for the long bus rides.

Casillas said she missed a lot of school because she was unable to get up in time to catch the bus.

South Gate High School hired 28 new teachers who also suffer from a degree of overcrowding, said Carol Burke, another assistant principal. They lack simple things such as enough mail boxes.

Teachers line up at the library Xerox machine as early as 7 a.m. to duplicate material before classes begin at 7:25 a.m.

Parking is also a problem because part of the teachers' parking lot is being used as a student eating area.

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