In the five years since she arrived at Micheltorena Street School, Principal Susanna C. Furfari has seen all sorts of improvements, from a new school garden and library to growing numbers of volunteers and parents willing to support the Silver Lake elementary. But earlier this month, Furfari learned that the school district had offered eight of her classrooms to Citizens of the World, a charter school seeking to expand in the area. Furfari said she has nothing against Citizens of the World but said sharing the campus with a charter would leave little room for a planned dual-language program, campus amphitheater and other initiatives.
“We have worked very hard to improve our campus,” Furfari said. “We have a lot to offer. But the goal was not to make it more attractive for a charter.”
The district offered Citizens of the World space to operate on the Micheltorena campus as part of an annual process under Prop. 39, which requires public schools to identify vacant classrooms and facilities and make them available to charter school operators (Furfari notes that some of the classrooms that L.A. Unified considers empty are used by visiting speech therapists and for other educational uses). Amy Dresser Held, executive director of Citizens of the World Charter, said the school did apply for space under Prop. 39 but declined to comment further. Citizens of the World, which operates a school on the La Conte Middle School campus in Hollywood, last year applied to open a new K-12 school in the Echo Park-Silver Lake area by the fall of this year.
But Citizens of the World is not only looking at Micheltorena for classroom space. The school and its supporters are apparently looking at a variety of locations to operate a new campus, according to an email update from a parent involved in establishing a new Echo Park-Silver Lake campus. The email – sent out last week – said:
In short, it is too early to know where the school will be located. At this time, there is a team of parents all with varied and deep professional expertise in real estate working on this. They are compiling a list of potential locations – places with the proper zoning and size for this school. There are also political avenues being explored, such as Prop39 and discussions with institutions already zoned to be schools. ([Churches] are often locations for charter schools because they come with the proper zoning)
Back at Micheltorena, Principal Furfari is not sure she can get the district to rescind its offer. But she has asked parents and supporter to contact the school district and school board to voice their opposition.
Rebecca Feldman, whose daughter will be attending Micheltorena in 2013, said her major concern about sharing classrooms with a charter school is that there will not be enough room for planned dual language program, which would require additional classrooms and could help boost enrollment at the school, which currently has about 300 students.
“If the greater Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park community would like to see a charter move in, I can accept that, and I’m sure Citizens of the World would make a nice addition to the area – just not at the expense of a local school that deserves a real chance to spread its wings,” Feldman said. “With the Dual Language Program, Micheltorena can fill a real need in the community and one that would truly help to make it’s students citizens of the world.”
- Parents Organize to Block Charter at Micheltorena Elementary. Patch