PACOIMA : UCLA Helps Rebuild Elementary School

The Spanish-style breezeways and high-ceilinged corridors of Pacoima Elementary School have rung with the sounds of laughing, shouting students for 79 years.

But the aging building, severely battered by the January earthquake, badly needs renovating and improvements beyond state-mandated handicap-access, flooring and safety lighting work currently under way.

So, since June, five members of a special design team have worked more than 150 hours each creating a series of innovative exterior and interior redesigns and renovation concepts for the school.

The team could have charged $20,000 for the work. But because the project is part of an advanced class for fourth-year students at the UCLA Extension Interior and Environmental Design Program, they will settle for a few school credits.

The fruit of the UCLA students' efforts will be on display at the school between 2 and 4 p.m. Thursday. Students will discuss their ideas, models, sketches and blueprints, which elementary school Principal Lawrence Gonzales plans to use in pitches to local businesses for funding.

"What we asked them to do is to come up with ideas to enhance the learning environment," Gonzales said. "We wanted to put the design students in a situation where they have a chance to see their work actually create improvements. And it allows us to go to potential donors and say, 'Here's what we'd like to do.' We can be specific, and we save a lot of money on the design fees."

The program, a new joint venture between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the UCLA Extension design program, was conceived by architect Jeffrey Daniels, head of the UCLA program.

His students met with Pacoima Elementary School students, teachers and parents, collected ideas and set to work. They came up with new plans for even better handicap access, a new concept for an arbor/sitting area in front of the school and painstakingly pieced together cardboard models and exhibits of planned improvements for classrooms, offices and the library.

Other LAUSD schools slated to participate in the program are a Pico-Union area elementary school and a Cerritos infant care center for teen-age mothers still in high school.

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