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Ask Not for Whom This School Bell Tolls

June 22, 2002

Re "School's Day Has Passed," editorial, June 17: I see that The Times has bought the latest reasons that the LAUSD has given for closing the Bellagio Road Newcomer Center in Bel-Air: that the students are better off at their home schools and the district will save money otherwise spent on busing. Well, maybe you need to reconsider, because their home schools have no room for them and will still have to bus them out. Parents of Bellagio Road students have received letters from Virgil Middle School, one of their home schools, telling them that their children will be bused to schools on the Westside or in the Valley. So much for the "home school" and "saving money on busing" arguments.

In the past year, the school district has given an ever-changing series of reasons for closing Bellagio, and as fast as they have been shot down, new reasons have been invented. As a result, a wonderful program that many people, including some board of education members, feel should be replicated throughout the district has been destroyed. The real losers are the children.

Maybe The Times can do some investigative reporting and discover the truth behind the closing of Bellagio. You might start by looking at board member Marlene Canter's cozy relationship with a charter school that covets the Bellagio Road campus.

Manuel Katz

Venice

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Re "Special School for Immigrants to Close" (June 13) and your June 17 editorial: New West Charter Middle School welcomes all comers, not just Newcomers. The new charter school has been requesting a shared-use, temporary site at Bellagio Road since January. This request shared the use with the Newcomer program. When the LAUSD decides what program will replace the Newcomer program, New West will request to share with it.

New West Charter Middle School was founded three years ago. Many parents have dedicated hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to trying to create a model, ideal middle school--one that can represent trends in educational reform that can be mirrored in other public schools. The outreach recruitment has been tremendous-- more than 550 applicants (to a school that doesn't exist) from 115 different schools and a very high level of diversity.

Don Sahlein

Sherman Oaks

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