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Plans for Use of Closed Ventura School Offered

October 15, 1997|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — School board members Tuesday got their first look at a proposal to use the long-shuttered Washington School for educational programs or district offices, and they got an offer from neighbors of the midtown campus to help put the facility to good use.

In previewing a recommendation that will come before them in a few weeks, trustees with the Ventura Unified School District also heard about plans to shore up the 1920s-era school, making it safer and less of an eyesore while planners study potential uses for the site.

"I think this is a very important step we are taking, especially for the midtown people who have been concerned about the property," trustee John Walker said. "I see this as a very positive step. The school district can retain ownership, yet we can return it to the community in some fashion."

The recommendation culminates a yearlong push by neighborhood residents to preserve the 72-year-old institution, closed in 1983 because of structural problems and declining enrollment.

Since its closure, vandals and the elements have left the school with broken windows, peeling paint and a trashed interior.

Last year there was even talk of selling the MacMillan Avenue facility to pay for more classroom space for the city's growing student population.

Residents have lobbied district officials to reopen the campus as a school--a step the district has ruled out--or turn it into a community center. On Tuesday, residents said they were pleased with the proposal to put the school to good use and pledged to support that effort.

"We are not suggesting restoration, merely protection of a public asset," said Craig Burkhart, a member of the Ventura Midtown Community Council. "We think this proposal is a good starting point."

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