Cerritos students start school during MJ media frenzy

SOUTH GLENDALE — Cerritos Elementary students started the school year Thursday with hundreds of national and foreign media outlets just outside their gates.

Some media outlets began parking near the school as early as Wednesday to cover Michael Jackson’s burial at Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park, which is across the street from Cerritos on South Glendale Avenue.

After the district canceled classes for three days due to poor air quality from the Station fire, students, parents and administrators had made arrangements for the first day of school, as well as the Jackson funeral.

Given the confluence of news events and intrusions, Alex Coria said she wasn’t sure if she was going to bring her son and daughter to school Thursday. She had just transferred them from Horace Mann Elementary to Cerritos.

“Since Monday is going to be a holiday, I believe they should have just given us the rest of the week [off],” she said.

This year, classes started a week earlier, Coria said.

“It’s was pointless to start for two days, then have a three day weekend,” she said.

A few parents opted not take their children to school Thursday due to the funeral, administrators said.

Despite school starting on the same day of Jackson’s funeral and all the hassle that came with it, Coria said the late pop star deserved the media attention

“It thinks it’s amazing,” she said. “I think it’s incredible that they are making time so every one can know what is going on.”

While Jackson’s death drew worldwide media attention, Coria’s 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, didn’t know him.

“I have no idea,” Samantha said. “All that I just know is that he is a great singer.”

Streets surrounding Forest Lawn were closed to traffic, but were open only to residents, business owners and customers with proof showing they were allowed to be in area.

Coria parked several blocks away, knowing that streets would be closed.

The school district held a meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday for parents, advising them of the road closures and assuring them that their children were safe, said Richard Sheehan, assistant superintendent of educational services for Glendale Unified.

‘We encouraged the parent to walk and going over the pick up,” he said.

The school district began working with the Glendale Police Department on a plan for the funeral after Jackson’s family announced that he would be interred at Glendale Forest Lawn memorial last month, Sheehan said.

Despite the rabble outside, the first day of school went smooth, Principal Janice Hanada said.

“Our goal was to make this an exciting and wonderful first day of school for the student and I think that took place today,” she said.

Even teachers seized the opportunity to turn the event into a teachable moment, Hanada said.

“You try to take anything like this into a learning opportunity,” she said.

After-school programs were scheduled to end at 6 p.m. because of the funeral event next door, but that change was only expected to affect about 40 students, administrators said.

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