Time Running Out for Boyle Heights High School

By Jacqueline García, EGP Staff Writer

A group of angry students and parents protested outside Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters Tuesday to demand that their small school stay open at its current site next year.

Following a one-year reprieve, the Academy of Environmental and Social Policy (ESP) High School in Boyle Heights is once again facing the prospect of being shut down or relocated to another campus.

One of 7 schools originally operated by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) at Roosevelt High School, ESP is now one of three schools following a cost cutting reorganization last year. It is the only school located off-site.

Following numerous meetings and an outpouring of public support for keeping the school intact, it was agreed that ESP could remain at its off-campus site for one more year to give the school time to apply for magnet school status, increase enrollment and reduce operating costs. ESP was told that neither LAUSD nor the Partnership would pay to lease the site after this school year.

Students, parents and advocates protest in front  of LAUSD headquarters to keep the doors of their Boyle Heights school open. (Photo courtesy of Ana Rentería)

Students, parents and advocates protest in front of LAUSD headquarters to keep the doors of their Boyle Heights school open. (Photo courtesy of Ana Rentería)

In a letter dated Feb. 20, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John E. Deasy informed ESP its time at the East LA Skill Center had run out.

Deasy’s letter outlines three options for the school going forward: move back to Roosevelt’s main campus as a linked learning pathway; move to Lincoln High School and continue as a small school while pursuing magnet school status, or disband. He said the Partnership supports the school moving to Roosevelt and gave the school until yesterday, Feb. 26 to respond.

Both LAUSD and the Partnership declined EGP’s request for comment.

 

Lea este artículo en español: Se Termina el Tiempo papra Una Preparatoria de Boyle Heights

 

At a strategy-planning meeting Monday at the school, students and parents told EGP Deasy’s letter caught them by surprise, especially the superintendent’s stated reasons:

“The space does not allow ESP to grow its enrollment to the size needed to be fiscally viable and transportation and recreation/PE facilities are ongoing issues,” Deasy’s letter states.

Parents said LAUSD says the school needs 400 enrolled students to be financially viable and to continue to operate as a separate school. In their “talking points” ESP contends they “can comfortably teach 360-480 students” by dividing two of its large rooms into four.

ESP was opened in 2007 to help alleviate overcrowding at Roosevelt. It currently enrolls about 260 students, many who take AP level classes. Most of the students live in or near Boyle Heights. In 2011, the school’s CTS scores showed the third highest gains in the LAUSD, which advocates for the school point to as a reason to allow the school to continue to operate as a separate small school, and apart from the larger schools like Roosevelt and Lincoln.

In accordance with the earlier agreement, ESP applied to become a magnet school but in July, 2013 their petition was denied for the 2014-2015 school year. The school resubmitted the application earlier this month for the 2015-2016 school year, but given Deasy’s letter, there may not be enough time for it to be processed.

According to ESP, in January of this year Deasy expressed support for growing the small school and there “was even talk of expediting our Magnet application for the coming year.”

“We were offered transportation if we moved to Belmont High School and the idea of expedited Magnet status was shared,” ESP Principal Brendan Schallert told EGP.

The school says all of the options offered by Deasy will “effectively close our successful school.” They say moving to Lincoln High School, while geographically close, raises “serious safety issues” for students who would be “traveling into rival gang territory.”

On Monday, the school responded to Deasy’s letter:  “Our success with students at ESP compels us to reject your offer and to risk our personal security for the future of our students and our program,” writes Principal Schallert on behalf of ESP’s staff.

Some of the school’s parents and students think money is the real reason the District wants to shut them down.

“We believe the reason this is happening is because this school is taking money away from Roosevelt,” said 11th grader Kimberly Velazquez.

Parents argue the District unfairly excluded them from discussions about the school’s future. “It’s kind of underhanded,” Dolores Flores, mother of an ESP 11th grader told EGP.

The 50 or so students and parents who protested Tuesday at the LAUSD were hoping to give their petition and letter supporting the school staying open directly to Deasy, but he refused to take them, EGP was told.

The petition was clear, said ESP junior Ana Renteria, explaining they asked LAUSD to allow the school to stay open next year and for the magnet application process to continue.

Parents say they feel very comfortable with the space that houses the school and that its small size allows teachers to give students more attention.

“My son is in AP classes, which at Roosevelt has a very long list to get there,” said junior parent Carol Perrelo. At ESP, “he was accepted from day one,” she told EGP. “It’s a smaller school, the teachers are involved, the parents are involved and this is the best place.”

While the principal and staff support keeping the school open, they said they could not fully participate in the protest because they are LAUSD employees. “I’m an employee of the District, the teachers are employees of the District, but the students have heard about this and they want to do something about it,” said Schallert.

Parents and students say they are disappointed Deasy wants to close a school he “has not even visited.”

“He is not being affected, students and parents are,” said Renteria.

ESP’s letter, resent on Wednesday, states the school is “open to discussions as to the most appropriate way to move forward,” but they cannot do it under such a short deadline “with the threat of the school being disbanded.”

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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February 27, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

6 Responses to “Time Running Out for Boyle Heights High School”

  1. Se Termina el Tiempo para Una Preparatoria de Boyle Heights : Eastern Group Publications on February 27th, 2014 1:25 pm

    […] Read this article in English: Time is Running Out for Boyle Heights High School […]

  2. Kim Dominguez on February 27th, 2014 2:42 pm

    I am a former student of ESP. I graduated with the help of all my teachers there. They kept me going, they kept motivating me no matter how easy it felt to give up. More than anything this was my second home, when there was a personal problem in our lives that would hold us back from succeeding academically the teachers would do what they could to help us. And I have never in all my years of attending public school have I ever seen students so eager to go to school and actually participate in class clubs or even events outside of school as a school. This school will always have a familylike atmophere that motivates it’s students which is why 70% of it’s students are eligible for college after high school. Transfering them on to a bigger campus is going to impact the students for the worst and it saddens me to think that my brother and my school friends who are like family to me can possibly be deprived of such a great school.

  3. Erica Huerta on February 27th, 2014 4:43 pm

    “Following numerous meetings and an outpouring of public support for keeping the school intact, it was agreed that ESP could remain at its off-campus site for one more year to give the school time to apply for magnet school status, increase enrollment and reduce operating costs. ESP was told that neither LAUSD nor the Partnership would pay to lease the site after this school year.”
    Unfortunately, this statement is not true. We never agreed nor were ever informed, verbally or in writing, of a one-year limit to staying at the East LA Skills Center. As a matter of fact, the District has still not explained any reason we cannot stay here next year. What are the plans for this space? At least $2 million was invested into turning this place into a school, who will benefit from that investment? And why have our parents not been given a voice?

  4. Sara Burns on February 27th, 2014 4:54 pm

    There are inaccuracies in this article. ESP was never given a one year limit at our site. There is no written agreement anywhere that documents such an agreement. No one, to this day, has explained why ESP cannot remain at our site next year. ESP parents have had no input throughout this process. If we would have known, don’t you think ESP would have been planning for alternate sites all year? They literally found out last week.

    Please publish a correction.

  5. lisa diaz on February 27th, 2014 4:57 pm

    I am glad this made headlines, my daughter has been a student there for 2 years, and she built a strong bond with her teachers, and students. my daughter is very smart, and she really loves this school, I would hate to remove her from the LAUSD, but I will if they choose to close this school down and have them force to go to another school!!!!! i emailed deasy, with this information, and I got no reply back, that shows how much he care for the students!!!!!I am not the only parent that will remove there child from the LAUSD there are many more….maybe he should go to Lincoln high school, and see how bad that school really is, I know cause i grew up in Boyle Heights!!

  6. James on February 27th, 2014 6:04 pm

    There are some KEY inaccuracies in this article.

    I was one of the ESP teachers involved in negotiations last year and ESP was NEVER told that it had one last year at the East LA Skills Center. That is simply not true. We were told we had to secure magnet status in order for our program to grow and become more fiscally sustainable (although we have ALWAYS been fiscally sustainable) and we are in the process of finalizing the magnet process as we speak. If you look at the Boyle Heights Zone of Choice information for NEXT YEAR, you find that ESP is shown to be located at the East LA Skills Center. Why would that be published if there was an understanding that the school would move? The District is lying. Period.

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