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Pacoima | VALLEY FOCUS

Speaker to Encourage Protection of Children

May 30, 1996|TIM MAY

On most weekdays, about 2,000 elementary and junior high school students gather to attend one of two schools in a one-block area on Norris Avenue, just off Van Nuys Boulevard in the heart of Pacoima.

Most of the students attend Pacoima Elementary School; the others go to Guardian Angel, a Catholic school.

All the children are at risk, says Isabel Martinez, director of the parent center at Pacoima Elementary.

"We have to deal with a lot of drug dealing, using and drinking" in the area around the school, Martinez said.

The source of most of the danger: ne'er-do-wells at nearby Pacoima Park, which abuts the school's south side. But gang members from the San Fernando Gardens public housing project, just across the street, also pose a threat.

Martinez will speak today about how the community can get involved in protecting the children, at a meeting of the Pacoima Coordinating Council.

Ensuring the safety of the children is not just the school's job, Martinez says, but is also the community's responsibility.

Thanks to recent stepped-up police patrols, Pacoima Park--a place sometimes haunted by drunks, dealers and homeless people--is cleaner and safer than it was.

A sturdy chain-link fence separates the park from Pacoima Elementary. But a fence is not enough, Martinez said.

"What I want to do is promote more awareness," said Martinez, who has four children enrolled at Guardian Angel and a daughter who works as a teacher's assistant at Pacoima Elementary.

"We need more parent involvement," she added. "We have got to be more aware of the realities" of life in Los Angeles.

"If we wake up, if we start talking to each other about watching the children closer, if we start watching the park closer, maybe we can chase the bad element out."

The Coordinating Council meeting is open to the public.

The council will hold its annual reorganization session at 11:30 a.m.

Martinez will speak at noon at Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, 10736 Laurel Canyon Blvd. in Pacoima.

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