Rally to keep LA Unified school open despite fewer students
Vanessa Romo | February 27, 2014
Another LA Unified school is under threat of closing.
The Academy of Environmental and Social Policy (ESP) is hosting a Back to School/Save our School event tonight to help fend off efforts to shut it down or relocate it because of shrinking enrollment,
As one of the district’s Partnership for Los Angeles schools, it is affiliated with Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, on the campus of the East LA Skill Center.
In a letter to ESP’s principal Brendan Schallert, Superintendent John Deasy said, “The space does not allow ESP to grow its enrollment to the size that is needed to be fiscally viable; and, transportation and recreation/PE facilities are ongoing issues.”
With 260 students this year, enrollment is at the lowest point in the school’s seven year history. At its highest point, in 2012, enrollment was 351.
In Schallert’s opinion, that is the outcome of “too much school choice.” A proliferation of charter schools in the area has been siphoning off students from traditional public schools.
The district has given ESP two options: Return to Roosevelt as a linked learning pathway, meaning the students would be absorbed into the school’s regular student population, or move to the Abraham Lincoln High School campus as a small school, while continuing pursuit of magnet status. If neither of these options is acceptable, the only other option is to disband, Deasy said in his letter.
Schallert said neither option would allow the school or its students to flourish. ESP students, “thrive in a small school environment.”
“They would get lost in a big school,” he said.
And relocating Roosevelt students to Lincoln Heights poses great risks them because of long standing gang rivalries between the two East LA neighborhoods
“On a very local level this decision just makes no sense,” he told LA School Report. “Sending those kids over to Lincoln is a safety risk we’re not willing to take.”
Several students expressed the same concerns in a student survey over the possibility of relocation. Among their comments:
“We are Riders.”
“Some of us have family members that are connected to gangs. We are safe here, but there (Lincoln H.S.) we could get shot.”
“Being here helps us: (How?) Not get jumped Not get into trouble as much You focus on your work and don’t have to be worried about nothing (sic)”
Schallert and the ESP staff have rejected Deasy’s offers, though the school plans to submit a final application for magnet conversion in the next four weeks. However, if approved that would take effect in 2015-16.
“If we could just get one more year” at their current location, he said, “that would be enough time.”