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Limited-Budget Effort Bodes a Scramble for Quiet Rooms : Chatsworth School Begins Work to Shut Out Traffic Din

Times Staff Writer

A program to seal windows and install air conditioning began at Chatsworth Park Elementary School Tuesday in an effort to alleviate traffic noise that school district officials say may be the worst in Los Angeles.

Because of a shortage of funds, however, only fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms in the school’s main building, which faces the busy intersection of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Devonshire Street, will be renovated.

District Standard 46 Decibels

The modifications will only lower the noise level in the renovated classrooms from 67.9 decibels to 62.2 decibels, according to district officials. The Los Angeles Unified School district standard is a maximum of 46 decibels.

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Principal Dora Golden said she is concerned about how the noise affects the rest of her student body of 440, which encompasses kindergarten to sixth grade.

The district’s allocation of $37,000 does not cover equipping two fourth-grade classrooms and a library in the main building with air conditioning--even though noise there is almost as bad as in the rooms that are being sealed, Golden said.

Golden blamed the excessive noise on increased traffic from the Simi Valley Freeway, which empties vehicles onto eight-lane Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Large trucks accelerating and braking at the intersection add to the din, Golden said.

Golden said she is worried that parents may not want their children to attend classes in rooms of the main building that lack air conditioning when school starts this fall.

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‘May Cause Problems’

“I would have hoped that we would have every room in this building air conditioned. It may very well cause problems with parents who want their kids on the other side,” Golden said.

Parents first became involved in the issue last September when they joined teachers in a letter-writing campaign to the school district complaining about the noise.

As a result, the district undertook a study that confirmed that noise in the classrooms averaged five to six times the district standard. The study made several recommendations, which included installing central air conditioning, sealing windows to keep out noise and building a sound barrier wall along Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

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According to Byron Kimball, director of school facilities services, the district could only afford to implement part of this proposal, however. It chose to alleviate the noise problem where it was worst--in the four classrooms facing Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

Jack Waldron, who heads the district’s environmental safety section, which compiled the study, said he felt the air-conditioning system was needed but that other schools in the district may have equally pressing problems.

“We tried to go as far as we thought we could with the funds we had,” Kimball added. He said the 644 schools in the district compete for its funds.

Complete Wiring Sought

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The $37,000 allocated to Chatsworth includes funds that would enable the school to wire the entire main building, allowing the district to install more air-conditioning units “in case funds are forthcoming for next year,” Kimball said.

Each additional, roof-mounted air-conditioning unit would cost $7,000 to $8,000, he said.


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