Board revokes approval of charter school

The Burbank Unified school board on Thursday revoked its approval of Giligia Charter Academy, citing the failure of petitioners to secure a school site by the deadline or provide a thorough updated budget, as well as what some school board members considered a lack of a need for such a facility in Burbank.

Board members — who initially approved the school last month on certain conditions, including that petitioners would submit the school’s address and lease information by July 7 — revoked their decision in a 4-0 vote. School board member Charlene Tabet was absent.

“You need to come back with a proposal that shows us that you can pull off what you’re trying to do,” said school board member Larry Applebaum.

Petitioners said Thursday they had a five-year lease in hand for property at 811 S. San Fernando Blvd., a contract that was contingent on the board’s approval of the project.

Petitioner Julia Yeranossian said after the meeting that she was shocked by the vote, but added that she’ll continue to pursue opening the school because she feels there’s a need for it in the community.

The idea was to bridge the cultural gap for recent immigrants, though the school would be open to all students. Lessons would be taught in English, but the school would also offer foreign-language classes in Armenian and Spanish, according to the petition.

At the meeting, board member Dave Kemp said he didn’t think there was a need for a new charter school in Burbank given that existing public schools are not underperforming or failing to meet student needs.

“If you see that there’s a need for some change in our schools, I think it would be worthwhile for all of us to get together and try to understand what those needs are and how we can best address those needs within the public schools, rather than separating out students to go to another school,” Kemp said.

More than a dozen community members addressed the board Thursday about the proposal, some in favor of the new school, while others worried about losing diversity in existing Burbank schools by separating students with different backgrounds.

For parent Suzanne Weerts, diversity is among the qualities she values most about Burbank public schools.

“The lives of my children have been enriched, as have my husband and my lives, because of the variety of cultures,” she said. “I really do fear that the segregation created by the opening of a potential charter school would rob future generations of Burbank students of this culture richness.”

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