About 50 parents, teachers and students from Magnolia Avenue Elementary School gathered Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles to protest the addition of a charter school on Magnolia’s campus.
“Our children will lose several programs,” said Guadalupe Garcia, a parent of two Magnolia Avenue Elementary students. “It’s unfair.”
Garcia said the school is located in a low income area and parents are concerned that the school’s resources will be stretched too thin if the charter move is approved. The school is located near the Pico-Union neighborhood, just south of MacArthur Park and covers pre-kindergarten to sixth grade.
On Feb. 1, the school district made a preliminary proposal of space – 11 classrooms and one administrative space – to Equitas Academy Charter School identifying Magnolia Avenue Elementary as a potential location, according to district spokeswoman Ellen T. Morgan. Letters about the proposal went out to parents and legal guardians.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered just outside the doors of the Los Angeles Unified School District building. Inside, the board was to hear about another proposal to move a charter to an existing school’s campus. This proposal would move Citizens of The World Charter School-Hollywood to the campus of Third Street Elementary in Hancock Park.
The Magnolia Avenue protesters carried signs with slogans including “Help us keep Magnolia’s Mariachi program” and “Save our computer labs. Change Prop 39!” in reference to a California law voters passed in 2000. Under Proposition 39, school districts must share public school properties fairly among all public school students, including those in charter schools.
David Hessell, one of the protesters and a Magnolia Avenue teacher for 20 years, said the issue is space.
“Our parents are really worried because under the law, under Proposition 39 … the district counts as vacant space any room that doesn’t have a regular teacher and a classroom in it,” Hessell said. “So our computer labs, our music rooms, our orchestra programs, our intervention programs are all counted as vacant space.
“It’s just frustrating to see space counted as vacant that is not really vacant.”
Equitas Academy Charter School’s Founder and CEO Malka Borrego issued a statement in response to the protest.
“Our first obligation is to our students, and we will do whatever it takes to provide an excellent education in a safe environment,” Borrego said.
“We didn’t choose a colocation,” Borrego said. “This is the space LAUSD gave us in which to serve our students for this year, and only this year, and we want to be partners with Magnolia over the course of the one year we’ll be sharing a building. We have no desire to affect any of their ongoing programs and, to our knowledge, our existence on their campus should not impact their ability to educate their students.”
Borrego also took issue with the protest.
“These protests distract from a safe learning environment, and we sincerely hope that everyone on all sides will be willing to work together on behalf of the students and Pico Union community,” she said.