1st Elementary in Valley Since '60s : L.A. Seeks Special Funds for New School

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Unified School District officials are seeking special state funds to build an elementary school in Sylmar, which would be the first one to be constructed in the San Fernando Valley since the 1960s.

Predictions of continued enrollment growth in already crowded northeast Valley schools prompted district planners to enter a state Office of Local Assistance competition for special construction funds, said Doug Brown, a school district building services administrator.

Under the experimental construction program, districts statewide were asked to submit plans that show innovation in design and that use existing school sites or land owned by other public agencies. The state program seeks to relieve classroom overcrowding and encourage districts to use less land for new school construction, Brown said. The money is to be awarded based on the proposed school design as well as the district's need for new classrooms.

Dyer Street Site

For example, using the program's design criteria, a second elementary school could be built on unused portions of a 10-acre site where Dyer Street School already stands, Brown said. No decision on a specific site for the Sylmar school will be made unless the state selects Los Angeles as a finalist in the competition later this fall, he said.

"There are several elementary school sites in the area, and we could even put a school up on stilts or build subterranean parking or share parking with another public facility," Brown said.

The state will pay for two schools in Northern California and two schools in Southern California under the experimental competition, Brown said.

By 1992, district officials predict that classrooms to house 450 to 700 new students will be needed in Sylmar, which is the district's third-fastest growing area. The number of students in the area served by Sylmar High School is expected to grow by about 11% in the next three years, school planner Philipe Yanceypiens said. Most of the schools in the area are already filled to capacity, he said.

The district has also applied for funds under the program to build a new school in South Los Angeles, which includes the district's two fastest-growing areas.

High Density

"The district can't afford to buy property at $2 million an acre," said East Valley school board member Roberta Weintraub. "I am in favor of higher density school sites and using whatever land we have available."

After two years of operating with a relatively stable enrollment of about 595,000 students, the district is bracing for the student population to begin a steady rise expected to last through the end of the century.

In past years, the board has been divided over using the power of eminent domain to take property for school sites, especially in the crowded South and South-Central areas of Los Angeles.

"Under this space-saver program, the district would not be displacing any residential or commercial property owners," Brown said.

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