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Funding to Build : High School Finally Approved by State : Education: After a decade of litigation, the new facility, set to open in 1997, will be the state's costliest at $96 million. Parents and administrators are ecstatic.

June 17, 1993|PSYCHE PASCUAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LYNWOOD — State officials authorized $59 million in funds last week to replace Lynwood's outdated, overcrowded high school with a new campus.

The news was cause for celebration among Lynwood school administrators, who had expressed concern that the long-awaited school would be delayed for years.

"It's a thrilling victory for children," school board member Rachel Chavez said. "Lynwood's never really had a new high school, and I really think the children deserve something new and modern and up-to-date. It's going to be a source of community pride."

Because of a decade of costly litigation and funding delays, the new school is expected to cost about $96 million, making it the most expensive high school to be built in California. Construction is expected to be completed in early 1997.

The district's existing high school, a World War II-era structure on Bullis Road, has been inadequate for years, officials said. About 3,300 students attend the school, more than twice the number originally intended when the campus was built in 1940. Many students are housed in portable classrooms. They swelter during the summer session of the year-round school because many classrooms are not air-conditioned. And the school lacks other amenities, including an indoor cafeteria and a public address system.

Plans to replace the school have been on the books longer than those for any proposed high school in California, state officials said. Much of the delay stemmed from a costly, lengthy legal dispute over a site for the school.

The district fought a five-year legal battle with the Seventh-day Adventist Church over property the church owned on Imperial Highway east of Bullis Road, about a mile from the existing high school. In March, 1991, a court ruled that the school district could seize the site in exchange for a fair price. The project was further stalled, however, when a jury did not set a price for the church land--$13.5 million--until last summer.

All together, the state paid $37 million to acquire the 33 acres sought for the high school. The district's legal fees for the lawsuit reached about $300,000. When the cost of construction is added to the price of the site, the tab becomes about $96 million.

The new Lynwood High "will have the dubious distinction of being the most expensive (high) school in California," said Bill Van Gundy, executive officer for the State Allocation Board, the Sacramento-based agency that distributes money for school construction. "Our people will be glad when that school is finally completed."

After the legal fight was won, the district had another fight on its hands: getting state funds to build the school. This battle was seemingly lost after state officials told the district it would probably have to wait at least two more years before its funding request would be considered.

School officials then launched a massive letter-writing and lobbying campaign to get state officials to reconsider.

On April 28, Lynwood administrators, parents and city leaders made a plea in person to the State Allocation Board to pay for the high school with the funds from a November, 1992, school construction bond measure. State officials had planned to spend the money elsewhere.

The district's persistence paid off. The state agreed in late April to release funds to build the school. And last week, officials said that the state would provide $59 million to Lynwood Unified.

Supt. Audrey Clarke said she plans to schedule a public groundbreaking ceremony in October or November.

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