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Private School Gets OK to Grow : Education: Chamlian Armenian School may increase enrollment from 425 to 500 over five years if it meets 30 conditions.


GLENDALE — Enrollment at a private Armenian school in Glendale will be allowed to increase slightly over the next three years, but only under strict rules imposed by the city, a zoning administrator ruled Wednesday.

Chamlian Armenian School has been granted a five-year zoning variance to gradually increase its enrollment from 425 to 500. The school had sought to enroll up to 600 students at its four-acre campus at 4444 Lowell Ave., where it has operated since 1983.

The school applied for the variance last year because board officials said the increased enrollment is needed to support the expenses of operating the campus, which is on the site of a former public elementary school.

Despite the limited increase granted, Principal Vazken Madenlian said the school, which has an annual tuition of $2,600, will remain open. He refused to comment directly on the report. But, he said, "academic standards could be affected. . . . Because we can do less with less money, it means fewer teachers than we would like and less resources, facilities and labs."

In granting the variance, Zoning Administrator Kathleen Marcus imposed 30 conditions, including orders that the school restore its kitchen and cafeteria and that there be no increase in traffic with new enrollment.

Neighbors in the semirural hillside community surrounding the school complained last year that enrollment had climbed more than 100 students beyond the permitted capacity and that noise and traffic had become unbearable.

City officials threatened to rescind the school's operating permit unless it trimmed enrollment and complied with 19 other conditions, including reducing traffic through the use of car pools and buses, increasing employee parking and building sound walls around a playground. The school met the conditions but also sought the enrollment increase.

The new ruling will allow enrollment at the school, which offers classes in first through eighth grades, to increase by a maximum of 25 students each year for the next three years. It limits the number of students in the seventh and eighth grades to 20% of enrollment. In a 16-page report, Marcus found that the "chemistry of the diverse groups does not blend well; older students intimidate younger ones." She also noted that the campus, built 30 years ago as Lowell Elementary School, "does not lend itself well to use by older students."

The original school, which had a capacity of 492 students through the sixth grade, was closed by the Glendale Unified School District in 1979 after enrollment dwindled to 195.

While Chamlian is permitted to operate kindergarten through eighth grades, Madenlian said there are no plans to add a kindergarten class, currently offered at another campus.

In her report, Marcus compared enrollment, curriculum and campus facilities at Chamlian with two other private schools--Mekhitarist Armenian School in La Crescenta, also the site of a former public elementary school, and Glendale Academy, a long-established school that offers kindergarten through 12th grades on a 10.5-acre campus. "Elements of the Chamlian School facilities and operations are deficient by comparison," the report said.

While the report found that Chamlian has sufficient space to increase enrollment, it noted that the lack of a kitchen, school infirmary and staff nurse "are significant deficiencies" that must be provided before any enrollment increase is permitted.

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