La Casita Verde preschool sits at the base of Mount Washington between the rumble of Gold Line trains and the roar of traffic on Figueroa Street. But those passing trains and cars are apparently no where nearly as loud as the 24 kids who fill a high-ceiling, classroom at the school. How noisy can it get? After officials from Head Start, the federal preschool program, visited La Casita Verde, the school was asked to test the room to make sure the sound did not exceed mandated decibel levels, said Executive Director Darlene Cabrera. La Casita needs to conduct and pass that sound test it wants to receive federal aid to expand its programs for low-income students, Cabrera said. Now, the school is trying to raise $5,000 to pay for those sound test and an acoustical analysis.
“We knew the noise was loud but we didn’t know it would prevent us from getting funding,” Cabrera said.
The room in question is a recent addition to the historic Zeigler estate, which is leased by the school from the City of Los Angeles, according to a story in the recent issue of the Mount Washington Assn. newsletter:
The western portion of the La Casita Verde building is a non-historic addition designed by a Los Angeles City architect to expand the ground floor classroom space of the original historic house. The addition is single story with a very high peaked roof. The ceiling inside follows this shape. Consequently noise echoes to a degree that disqualifies the entire preschool from subsidies, such as the Head Start program, that would enable more low-income families to enroll … This room is now used daily for effective teaching, but the quality of communication and the ambience of the room would be significantly enhanced by a thorough acoustic modification.
La Casita Verde has tried several ways to cut down on the noise. The students have been split up into smaller groups that spend time somewhere else on campus. The school has also installed carpeting, drapes and bulletin board to absorb noise. Cabrera said that some people have suggested putting soundboard across the ceiling but that would interfere with fire sprinklers.
In addition to testing the decibel levels, the sound test the school is seeking would also offer some suggestions for reducing noise. The Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council has pledged $2,500 for what’s called an “acoustic remediation project.”
But it’s going to take a lot of remediation judging by the earful Martha Benedict, a neighborhood council board member, received when a group of La Casita Verde preschoolers starting singing the classroom:
It brought me back to what I experienced in the 60s at a Pink Floyd concert. The volume is overwhelming, just from the chorus of maybe 10 little kids.