Simi Trustees to Vote on Sale of Surplus School


School trustees are poised to sell one of their surplus campuses to raise money for modernization.

In a vote scheduled tonight, members of the Simi Valley Unified School District board will decide whether the Belwood Elementary School site on Kadota Street should be sold, with a minimum price of $1.2 million being recommended by district staff.

The campus is one of four that have not been used by the district since an enrollment slump in the early 1980s. Twenty-nine other campuses are in use by the district.


The proceeds would help offset the $2 million to $4 million in anticipated expenses to modernize and add computer wiring at district elementary schools, said Dave Kanthak, assistant superintendent of business services.

For operators of three preschools and two churches that rent space at Belwood, warning of the sale came when the district shifted from annual to monthly leases in June 1996. In November, the tenants were told their leases will end in June if the school is put up for sale.

But none of the tenants have found alternative sites, and the possibility of a sale upset their officials.

“It’s really a very sad, horrible thing,” said Karen Blufer, board president of the Simi Valley Jewish Community Center, which has been running a preschool at the Belwood site for 10 years.

“It’s unfortunate,” agreed Happy Acres Pre-School director Marie Weckhurst, who is in charge of 55 children ages 2 to 5. “I was told I would be here for a very long time.”

If the park district or the city does not want the 13-acre Belwood property, the highest bidder will be selected April 21.


Grace Brethren Schools, which leases two of the district’s other closed school sites, and some developers have shown interest in buying the Belwood property, officials said.

Blufer said she is sending letters today to parents of the school’s 55 children warning them that the facility could close in June.

“Parents haven’t felt secure here since we went from a year-to-year lease 18 months ago to a month-to-month lease,” Blufer said. About 100 children were enrolled in June 1996, but that number dropped by nearly half after the school board changed lease conditions, she said.

In addition to the Jewish Community Center and Happy Acres preschools, Building Blocks Pre-School, Calvary Baptist Church and Jehosephat Missionary Baptist Church lease space from the school district, generating about $100,000 each year.

Trustee Carla Kurachi said there might be a way to keep people happy--at least for a while.

Under one scenario, Grace Brethren Schools would buy the Belwood site and the former Walnut Grove Elementary School site at 1350 Cherry Ave. Grace Brethren would then move out of the former Arcane Elementary School at 1717 Arcane St.


This would create an opening for the preschools now at Belwood until at least the year 2000, when the district may want the campus back for its own enrollment.

“They have a home until it is sold,” Kurachi said. “And then they can move over to Arcane if Grace Brethren is successful.”

That option is a possibility, Blufer of the Jewish Community Center said. She also is negotiating with Congregation B’nai Emet temple in Simi Valley, which may take over the preschool.

The idea of moving into the Arcane site also pleases Connie and Robert Lopez, directors of Building Blocks Pre-School.

Without that choice, Connie Lopez said, the 45 children they take care of will be “displaced and have nowhere to go.”

Citing strict state regulations for restroom stalls and playground space, the couple said their real estate agents have had difficulty finding a new location.


“We’ve been looking for other sites,” Connie Lopez said. “But if we don’t find anything, we’ll have to close down.”