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July 22, 2019

The Country's Largest Charter School Expands into a Construction Zone

By Carl Petersen

Was the Los Angeles Unified School District Board aware that Granada Hills Charter High School would raze its satellite campus just prior to its first year of expansion?


"Planning: A basic management function involving formulation of one or more detailed plans to achieve optimum balance of needs or demands with the available resources. The planning process (1) identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, (2) formulates strategies to achieve them, (3) arranges or creates the means required, and (4) implements, directs, and monitors all steps in their proper sequence."

- BusinessDictionary

As the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) prepared to consider a Material Revision that would authorize Granada Hills Charter High School to expand to a TK-12 program, it was noted that they were proposing placing the 1,425 Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through eighth-grade students in a facility that previously held 448 students. The Charter School Division (CSD) responded that "GHCHS has provided Certificates of Occupancy...that verify the Devonshire site has a maximum occupancy of 1,523." The district's regulators were also asked if the existing buildings would be replaced before the proposed expansion took place, but the CSD left out an answer in their response.

Over the objection of LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson, the LAUSD School Board authorized Granada's Expansion, which will make this one school larger than 86% of all school districts nationwide. The first students in the new program will start classes when the school year begins next month.

As one would expect, the campus is buzzing with activity as the opening date of the new program approaches. However, instead of providing fresh coats of paint to classrooms, construction crews are hard at work demolishing existing buildings so that a new $34 million three-story building can open "sometime in the 2020-21 school year". In the meantime, temporary classrooms have been plopped down at the edge of a major construction zone to serve the students.

If the past is any indication, parents of these new students should look closely at the work that is going on around their children. The CSD's recommendation to approve Granada's expansion was given despite the fact that the school still had not rectified a Notice of Violation based on faulty construction that endangered "the health and safety of students, staff and other individuals." An anonymous source who claims to have direct knowledge of the school's operations, confirms that some of the dangerous construction has been dismantled, while other areas are still red-tagged. Even worse, this source claims that the district missed some projects which this person says have problems with asbestos abatement, a lack of smoke detectors and sub-par construction. Of particular concern is work that was done in the vicinity of a structural beam that this person feels may have jeopardized its integrity.

According to the Daily News, the plans to expand Granada "have long been in the works." If this is the case, then there is no reason that students should have been added at the same time a major construction project was beginning to house those students. It provides yet one more example of how the school puts its own bragging rights above the needs of the students. The LAUSD failed to provide the oversight necessary to prevent this from happening. Hopefully, they are doing a better job of ensuring the construction project is properly planned and executed.

Temporary classrooms on the edge of a construction zone.
Temporary classrooms on the edge of a construction zone.
(Image by Carl J Petersen)
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Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." His past blogs can be found at Opinions are his own.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.

Carl Petersen is a father of five, including two daughters who are on the autism spectrum. His involvement in education issues began when the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) refused to provide services that his daughters' teachers agreed they needed. It was then that his family was forced to sue the District.

At the end of two days of mediation at the District's headquarters, he turned to his wife, Nicole, and said: "somebody has to change this." His wife replied, "What about you?" He accepted the challenge and has run twice for a position on the LAUSD School Board. His platforms included advocacy for special education issues and strong support for public education. In his last election he was endorsed by Americans for Democratic Action Southern California, SFV/NELA Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and Network for Public Education (NPE) Action, a group co-founded by Dr. Diane Ravitch.

When Carl is not working or engaging in activism, he enjoys hanging out at theme parks with his family. He took his oldest daughter to Woodstock '94 when she was two and used to play in several local bands. If he is at his home in Northridge, California, there is a dog at his feet and he is probably writing one of his blogs which have been published in OpEdNews, Medium, Patch, and K-12 News Network.