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VALLEY FOCUS | Van Nuys

Mayor Visits New Kindergarten Center

September 30, 1998|EDWARD M. YOON

Kindergarten teacher Anna Perez welcomed an unexpected visitor to her classroom Tuesday while teaching her morning class at the recently opened Van Nuys Primary Center.

It was none other than Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Although Riordan was to speak at the center's inauguration Tuesday, nobody expected him to enter one of the new facility's six classrooms while a class was in session.

"What's the name of the best school?" Riordan asked the 4- and 5-year-olds.

"Van Nuys Primary Center!" responded the children.

After touring the 32,000-square-foot facility--which includes an administrative building, a lunch area under a pavilion, and a playground--Riordan was joined by officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District, including Supt. Ruben Zacarias, to celebrate the facility's inauguration.

"We are here today to celebrate the future of these beautiful children here, because that's what the Van Nuys Primary Center will do--ensure the future of these beautiful children," Zacarias told a crowd of more than 50 community members.

Candy Fernandez-Ghoneim, the center's principal, said the facility will alleviate crowding at Van Nuys Elementary, which had previously served the area's kindergarten students.

"This school means that our children do not have to take a bus outside their community," Fernandez-Ghoneim said. "They get to attend their own school."

The 280 children attending the center, which opened Aug. 31, are the first group of LAUSD kindergartners to have a school all to themselves, Fernandez-Ghoneim said. The district's second kindergarten-only center, the 57th Street Primary Center in Los Angeles, opened in early September, and more sites are expected to open within the next few years, said Vicki Montez, LAUSD administrative coordinator with School Management Services.

The cost of the Van Nuys Primary Center at 6555 Sylmar Ave. was $3.7 million, Montez said. By comparison, full-scale elementary campuses typically run about $12 million, she said.

Funding for the center came from Proposition BB, which provides money for new school construction, Montez said.

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