In Partnership with The 74

Westside group outraged over proposed immersion school

Craig Clough | March 31, 2015



Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

A group of Mar Vista community members and parents is mounting a protest againt LA Unified school board member Steve Zimmer over his support for a Mandarin immersion elementary school slated to be built in their Westside neighborhood.

The $30 million school, currently dubbed the Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School project, was approved by the LA Unified school board in April 2014 with Zimmer’s support, and an environmental impact report (EIR) on the project entered the public comment phase on March 26.

The school would be located in Zimmer’s District 4 on a few acres of open green space that now exists at Mark Twain Middle School. It would would have 15 classrooms and move students currently from nearby Broadway Elementary School’s Mandarin and English Dual- Language Immersion Program to the new site. The district says that Broadway no longer has space to allow the program to grow.

But the community members and parents have taken to a new website, stopcommuterschool.com, to express their strong opposition to the project.

In a press release posted to the site, which has over 340 signees on a related petition against the proposed school, the group lobbed a number of accusations at Zimmer, calling the school his “pet program” and saying that he is “playing favorites” with $30 million in public funds.

Zimmer did not respond to several messages left for him seeking comment on the group’s petition and assertions, which include:

  • The proposed school is an unnecessary and invasive $30 million project.
  • The school would exclusively house one commuter language-immersion program next to under-funded and under-enrolled neighborhood schools.
  • The proposed structure would take up four acres of coveted green space that kids and families in the neighborhood currently use for recreation and sports activities.
  • The estimated 500 students outside the neighborhood who would be commuting to the program would create traffic and parking nightmares that would endanger children and disrupt a quiet residential neighborhood.

The release also called the district EIR a “verbose” document and said the group is raising funds to produce its own independent EIR report. It claims that Zimmer has ignored the schools on either side of the new construction, Mark Twain and Beethoven.

The release also said that “language-immersion programs are an amazing example of cultural and educational diversity and should be championed by the LAUSD and people everywhere. But this level of special treatment is egregious and will undoubtedly harbor socioeconomic resentment in the community it is invading.”

The public comment period on the EIR closes May 11.

 

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