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L.A. charter school gutted by fast-moving blaze

In aftermath of fire, Green Dot must scramble to open school by Aug. 12
Tuesday's fire is new blow for L.A. charter group, which lost two students in fiery Orland bus crash

A charter school organization is scrambling to find an alternative location after a fire swept through the campus Tuesday.

Animo South Los Angeles Charter High School served 600 students, but school was not in session and officials believe the structure was empty.

"My biggest concern is that no one is in the building," said Marco Petruzzi, chief executive of Green Dot Public Schools, which operates the campus east of Inglewood.

Now, he said, he's turning his attention to finding a way to begin the new academic year Aug. 12. "This is terrible."

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy pledged to help Green Dot find classroom space and open on time.

Green Dot is one of the largest charter organizations in California and recently announced plans for a national expansion. Charters are free, public schools that are exempt from some regulations that govern traditional campuses.

One of the first Green Dot schools, Animo South just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

About 25 firefighters battled the blaze, which was reported about 2:20 p.m. at 11,100 South Western Ave., said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Scott Miller. The campus is in unincorporated Westmont, south of downtown Los Angeles.

Firefighters arrived at the school to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the roof, he said.

Roughly 30 minutes after the fire was reported, live aerial television footage showed that most of the building's roof had collapsed.

The Green Dot organization suffered another tragedy in April, when two students from Animo Inglewood Charter High School died in a fiery bus crash in Orland. They were among a group of students on a trip to visit Humboldt State University. Two adults with ties to Green Dot also were killed.

Green Dot recently received positive notice in two studies. One found comparatively strong academic progress at the schools; another, released this week, concluded that students attending three Green Dot campuses were less likely to engage in extremely risky behavior than similar students attending other schools.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.

Twitter: @howardblume

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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