LOS ANGELES – Twenty alternative schools in Los Angeles County will close Wednesday, but the superintendent of schools said she is trying to raise support from local school districts so the campuses can be reopened.
Superintendent Darline P. Robles appeared before the Board of Supervisors to respond to a proposed 30-day moratorium on school closings by Supervisor Don Knabe, who had hoped to give the Office of Education and county staffers time to find alternatives to the shutdowns.
But Robles said that if teachers were hired for another 30 days, regulations governing the agency might require them to be paid for the entire year–at a cost of more than $1 million.
The superintendent said the plan to close the schools, which cost more than traditional campuses to operate because they cater to special needs students, was part of an effort to cut costs and get state approval for the larger department’s budget.
A total of about 700 students–juveniles on probation, pregnant teens and others not well served by mainstream options–attend the 20 schools. They are part of a system of 53 alternative schools, most of which operate year-round.
If the 20 schools in question closed for good, local school districts would be obliged to absorb the students.
Robles said she was negotiating with officials from the affected districts and might be able to get them to sign off on additional costs to support the 20 sites.
She offered to go back to the LACOE board next Tuesday and ask members to reconsider the closings in light of whatever additional monies she’s able to raise. If the board agrees, students would be able to make up lost days later in the year.
One former student, Yessica Fuentes, broke down in tears before the board.
“Thanks to them, I was able to graduate, because I got a one-to-one tutor,” said Fuentes, a young mother who was able to put her child in daycare at the school she attended. “If you close it, what’s going to happen to everybody?”
The board unanimously agreed to put off a vote until July 13 to give Robles time to readdress the issue with her board.
Six of the schools slated for closing are in the second district, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged the LACOE superintendent to work with the L.A. County Probation Department to find potential solutions.
“Many of those who will suffer are probationers, recently released from juvenile detention, who are in desperate need of small settings and additional support to enable them to catch up and get on with their lives,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.