College May Sell Montrose Campus : Satellite Jeopardizes $10-Million Project at Its Main Site

Times Staff Writer

Glendale Community College's ownership of a satellite campus may jeopardize a $10-million construction plan to relieve crowding at the main campus, administrators have warned.

As a result, trustees are considering selling the satellite campus, a former elementary school situated on residential Florencita Drive in Montrose, about five miles north of the main college.

In a possible first step toward such a sale, trustees last month agreed to have the property appraised.

The satellite campus poses a problem, trustees said, because of its "inefficient design." Built for grade-school use, its rooms and hallways are much larger than typical college facilities, causing the Montrose campus to appear underused.

When a complicated state formula is applied to both the Montrose extension and the main campus, the entire college district appears to have ample space. However, the main campus on North Verdugo Road is among the most crowded among California community colleges, said Glendale Community College President John A. Davitt.

In Need of State Funds

"The state will not finance construction projects of any community college campus that they consider to have adequate space," Davitt said.

Without state money, the college would be unable to pay for most of the $10 million in expansions and renovations it hopes to undertake in the next five years.

From 500 to 700 students, many of them adults studying English as a second language, attend classes at the Montrose facility, which still bears storybook murals from its days as a grade school. About 12,000 students are enrolled at the main campus.

Arguments in favor of selling the satellite campus range from those who say it is not designed for college-age students to others who complain about its location.

Some administrators say the student body would be better served by a smaller satellite facility downtown or in south Glendale, where the population has been rapidly increasing because of new construction and foreign immigration. Such a move could be affordable only if the Montrose campus were shut down, officials said.

"We're looking at simply a facility on an existing high school site or a small building somewhere in south or central Glendale," said Jean Larson, the college's vice president of administrative services. "It's an area where the population is very heavy and the need for skills-type training has been demonstrated."

Trustees, however, caution that it is premature to say whether the Montrose campus will be sold.

"If Montrose serves a valuable function and we can afford to keep it, we'll keep it," said Robert K. Holmes, college board trustee.

News that college administrators are considering closing the Montrose campus has created a cloud of uneasiness there, causing some faculty members and students to worry out loud about the loss of what they describe as a "homey" and "laid-back" place.

"It's nicer up here. There are fewer people and it's quieter," nursing student Martin Oliver, 28, said.

"A lot of people have been sort of panicked," said 49-year-old nursing student Jinny Liberotti. "But nobody has given us any particular information."

Besides offering ESL and non-credit, adult-education classes, Montrose houses all the college district's nursing and television-production courses, said W. James Baugh, associate dean of the Montrose campus. None of the classes would be eliminated if the campus were sold, he said.

Instead, the adult courses would be relocated throughout the city and the college-credit programs would be transferred to the main campus, a move some faculty members and students welcome and others oppose.

'Second-Class Citizens'

"I'm concerned about having an adequate facility on the main campus," said nursing instructor Chris Rodemich, who six years ago taught nursing in a one-room trailer at the main campus before the program was moved into seven classrooms at Montrose.

"A lot of us have the fear we will be trailered off someplace and be second-class citizens. We'd feel a lot more confident if we knew," she said.

Television production instructor Mike Petros said some people worry that there is inadequate space on the main campus. But he acknowledged that such a move could prove beneficial.

"My enrollments would improve," he predicted. "A lot of my students are taking classes at the main campus and it's inconvenient for them to come up here."

Others, such as nursing instructor Lew Amendola, say they are in favor of the sale.

"I feel we are isolated up here," he said. "These are college students who don't get to participate in real college life. There's a psychological loss of getting isolated."

In 1981, the college separated from the Unified School District and took over the Montrose facility under a lease-purchase agreement, Larson said. When the sale became final late last year, the college had to include Montrose in its inventory of space.

"There are certain time slots when the classrooms are packed and the parking lots are packed," Baugh said. "But the usage per square foot is not as much as the college would like."

And there are other problems with the campus, Baugh said.

"You should see the restrooms. The potties are down here," he said, lowering his hand to a couple of feet above the ground.

Then there's the marching elephant, the laughing circus clown and the pink pig that dance gaily across a painted mural decorating a corridor.

"Would I ever like to get rid of those," he said with a roll of his eyes.

Baugh said he feels confident that Davitt and the trustees will make the "correct" decision.

"As much as I don't want to see them sell this campus," he said, "we must do what's best for Glendale College."

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