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'Blue Ribbon' School's Move Criticized

Education: Some parents oppose removing magnet campus from Mid-City area, but principal says the shift has broad support.


Walgrove's principal, Yuri Hayashi, declined to be interviewed. However, she had publicly supported a previous plan that would have involved sharing her campus with New Roads High School, a fledgling private school that had sought a long-term lease at the site in exchange for a variety of amenities and cooperative programs.

Paul F. Cummins, founder of New Roads, which is now in Santa Monica, said he fought for eight months, starting in September 1998, to get the Los Angeles Board of Education to consider and vote on that plan, to no avail.

"I was going to green the entire campus," he said, ringing it with trees and setting up an "ecological classroom" that would demonstrate irrigation and recycling. He also planned to install new recreation equipment and a soccer field. New Roads students were also poised to tutor Walgrove children for half an hour each day.

He and Hayashi viewed it as a partnership between private and public schools that could serve as a model for other resources-strapped L.A. Unified schools.

Suddenly, with stunning speed, it was no longer an option.

In May, district officials alerted Marton of their plan to transfer Community to Walgrove's campus. The school's constituents had two weeks to decide, officials said, before a school board vote on June 8.

"It happened so fast," Cummins said. "I couldn't get a vote in eight months, but in two weeks Community Magnet was rammed through."

Community parents who oppose the move were suspicious about the timing. The rushed school board vote occurred on election day, as district representative Barbara Boudreaux was ousted by voters. She was replaced on the school board by Genethia Hayes, who had the backing of Mayor Richard Riordan. Riordan favored the New Roads plan at Walgrove.

Freeing up the space taken by Community school, opponents point out, opened up the land the Center for Enriched Studies has been seeking to build a $22-million community center, a joint venture between L.A. Unified and the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

At the Blue Ribbon event, Hayes said she understands the distress the community feels at losing its second elementary magnet school in short order.

"It may look like on the surface we're losing confidence in the central city, but we're not," she said. "We're trying to look at Crescent Heights to try to start another magnet school there."

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