Future of LAUSD school unclear as charter school looks to expand – Pasadena Star News

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  • Parents, teachers and students gather outside the local LAUSD district central office on Wednesday to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Parents, teachers and students gather outside the local LAUSD district central office on Wednesday to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Parents, teachers and students gather outside the local LAUSD district central office on Wednesday to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Sandra Banuelos, a teacher from Trinity, wears a Trinity backup mask during a rally outside of the LAUSD Central Local District. Parents, teachers and students have come together to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary School open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Parents, teachers and students gather outside the local LAUSD district central office on Wednesday to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Jonathan Perez, a fourth-grader at Trinity Elementary, holds a class photo during a rally outside the local LAUSD district central office. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Parents, teachers and students gather outside the local LAUSD district central office on Wednesday to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Parents, teachers and students rally outside the local LAUSD district central office on Wednesday to demand that the district keep Trinity Elementary School open. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

The future of an elementary school serving families in south-central Los Angeles for more than a century seems uncertain after this school year due to declining enrollment, while a charter school on the same campus – whose registrations have increased – is aiming for expansion.

The situation has once again fueled tensions between supporters of traditional public schools and supporters of school choice.

Charter schools are public schools, but they are often managed by organizations separate from the local school district and have greater autonomy and flexibility in their operation. Proponents of school choice hail charter schools as innovative, while critics question the quality of some charter school programs and accuse them of diverting students from traditional public schools.

In the latest example of the impact of charter school growth on a traditional school, parents, students and educators at Trinity Street Elementary came together on Wednesday, October 27 to demand that Los Angeles Unified officials do not close their school. Their concerns have been growing since at least the summer, when families received a letter from the district suggesting that Trinity students could be reassigned to other schools after the current school year.

Trinity Street Elementary has lost enrollment in recent years while Gabriella Charter School 2, which opened on the same campus in 2017, has seen its enrollment increase, Frances Baez, central superintendent of the local LAUSD district, wrote to families. in June.

“Continuing to operate Trinity at current enrollment levels will not allow us to provide the quality services, supports and resources that our students and staff deserve,” she wrote. “We just can’t run a stand-alone school on this site with the number of enrollments we have. “

“Please know that this decision was very difficult and was not taken lightly. I hope you will support us as we finalize other options for your child, ”the administrator wrote.

Last week, Baez said in a statement to the LA Daily News that Gabriella Charter School had requested additional space on the Trinity campus and noted that state law requires districts to make facilities available to schools. public charters that serve students living in the district. Gabriella Charter is currently serving students in Transitional Kindergarten to Grade 6.

In follow-up emails, Monica Carazo, spokesperson for the local district central office, said options the district is considering include moving fifth-grade students from Trinity to colleges and transforming the Maple Primary Center. neighbor in a K-2 campus. The office also plans to begin conversations with the community soon on where to place third and fourth graders for the 2022-2023 school year.

“Surt. Baez has contacted the Trinity community to examine what the best options are for the 117-year-old campus, ”Carazo wrote. “Trinity (Elementary School) will continue to be a LAUSD facility providing unique services to the community. More details will follow once there is consensus.

LAUSD schools face declining enrollment

While the reasons may vary, Trinity isn’t the only LAUSD school facing a drop in enrollment. The district as a whole has registered fewer students each year for quite some time. This downward trend has continued this year, with 430,322 students enrolled in transition kindergarten through grade 12 – about 26,000 fewer students than last year, district officials reported last month. .

Likely reasons for the district’s declining enrollment include declining birth rates and the move of families from Los Angeles to more affordable communities. But many also believe that during campus closures due to a pandemic, families began to consider their school options, including private schools, charter schools and homeschooling.

Ricardo Soto, general counsel for the California Charter Schools Association, said in a statement that statewide support for charter schools has reached its highest level since 2015.

Citing a recent opinion poll conducted by the association, Soto said 52% of California voters support charter schools, including 56% of parents. And 78% of voters think parents should have the choice of choosing a charter school if they want to, he said.

“Gabriella Charter Schools should be commended for trying to serve even more students from some of Los Angeles’ poorest neighborhoods,” Soto said. “Putting children first should be every educator’s priority and it makes sense for the school district and public charter schools to work together to ensure that every child’s school provides a high quality public education. “

“The students of the Trinity matter just as much”

Tanya Flores, chapter co-chair for United Teachers Los Angeles, has two children who attend Trinity, where she also teaches. She said at Wednesday’s rally, which the teachers’ union helped organize, that Trinity offers programs such as hip-hop music and dance lessons, as well as a bilingual program, and that it’s more than a “simple school” for the community. .

According to the union, Trinity is one of the most disadvantaged schools in the district. Ninety-nine percent of students at the school are black, Hispanic, or multiracial, and 97 percent are entitled to free or reduced-price meals, compared to 81 percent of students in the district.

“Shutting down Trinity would mean moving our over 230 students from their homes away from home. This is not correct. Our students deserve better than that,” said Flores.

Because the pandemic kept most of the students at home for two school years, Trinity’s teacher said her son, a second grader, was delighted to attend Trinity in person for the first time this year. .

“How am I supposed to tell him that after more than a year of stress, disruption, isolation and fear, LAUSD is going to close his school and he will have to start all over at another school?” she asked.

“Our students at Trinity matter just as much as students at charter schools. Our students at Trinity matter just as much as students from the affluent neighborhoods, ”she added. “If LAUSD really cares about supporting fairness and helping our students recover from the pandemic, this will keep Trinity Elementary open instead of expelling hundreds of students. “

Organizers of the rally, which was held in front of the local district central office, later said they intended to file a petition in Baez, signed by more than 2,500 community members, demanding that Trinity remains open, but the district locked the door to the building on Wednesday afternoon.

By early Friday afternoon, district administrators had not received the petition but were “looking forward to receiving it,” Carazo said.

Chartered Parents Just Want “The Best Education”

Meanwhile, some Gabriella Charter parents feel targeted for sending their children there.

Parent Jennie Flores said she chose to enroll her children in Gabriella Charter because she felt students received more personalized attention, and she was impressed that every staff member on campus seemed to know every student. by name. The mother-of-three also said Gabriella Charter has a longer school day, which allows her to incorporate art and dance classes, which her daughter loves, into the program.

Gabriella Charter’s parent said she sympathizes with families in Trinity who are nervous and upset over the possible closure of their school. But the fact that the charter school is increasing in enrollment also shows that there is a demand for it, she said.

In an ideal world, Jennie Flores said, Gabriella Charter would be able to open her own school site outside of the Trinity campus.

“I understand their point of view,” she said of Trinity’s parents. “It’s their home school. They have probably been sending their children there for years.

“But I really hope Trinity’s parents can see that we’re just trying to get the best education for our kids. I hope they can understand that, ”she added. “(And) I hope Trinity doesn’t shut down.”


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