Parents who have fought to reopen Prairie Street School in Northridge were given a glimmer of hope Thursday when the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Building Committee questioned a staff proposal to lease the school.
The district closed the school last year, citing underenrollment, despite intense parental opposition. At the start of Thursday’s committee meeting, it was on a list of four San Fernando Valley closed schools that the district’s staff said should be leased to outside parties to generate revenue.
But members of the Building Committee said they will recommend that the school not be leased until the staff completes districtwide projections on where schools may become crowded. The staff said the projections would be finished in September.
“I would not disagree with further exploration of the use of Prairie for relief of overcrowding,” said board member Jackie Goldberg, who sits on the Building Committee with Roberta Weintraub and Larry Gonzalez.
‘Going to Need Every Seat’
Weintraub similarly said the school may become an important asset to a district that “is going to need every seat.”
The Building Committee is advisory, but its positions often indicate how the board will vote. The board is expected to vote on the recommendations next month.
Newly seated school board member David Armor, whose West Valley district includes the school, appeared before the committee to ask that it not be leased. Armor had pledged during his campaign to try to reopen the school.
He predicted that enrollment projections for the Calahan Street School, the Topeka Drive School and the Dearborn Street School, all in Northridge, will show that the Prairie Street School will be needed in the next three years.
The school is at Prairie Street and Zelzah Avenue, by the campus of California State University, Northridge.
“I think the school board staff is finally looking at the facts,” said Barbara Romey, a parent who has helped lead the four-year fight to keep the school alive. “There are a lot of little kids being born in my neighborhood and they’ll have a good chance of going to a neighborhood school.”
Romey conceded that the school’s enrollment of 305 when it was closed in June, 1984, was significantly less than its capacity of 450. But she said enrollment had been steadily increasing in the previous year.
Weintraub Sides With Parents
“It was a fabulous school,” she said.
Weintraub indicated she was on the parents’ side. “The school is located in such a good spot,” she said.
But Weintraub also cautioned parents against setting their hopes too high. “I wouldn’t want to excite the community to believe that it will be reopened, but it’s not going to be leased,” she said.
The school board voted in February, 1984, to close seven elementary schools, five in the Valley, because of a shortage of students.
The three schools that were on the recommended-for-lease list with the Prairie Street School are the Collins Street School in Woodland Hills, the Garden Grove Avenue School in Reseda and the Enadia Way School in Canoga Park.
In another recommendation, the committee urged the board to consider working with a governmental agency or a private party to develop the Parthenia Street School in Sepulveda for an alternative use, perhaps as a regional occupational-skills center.
The committee also recommended offering the Collier Street School in Woodland Hills for sale. Members of the committee said they may recommend that the board consider the unusual step of subdividing the property to enhance its value before it is sold.