Metro Charter School’s Long and Painful Saga
Los Angeles Downtown News
March 12, 2018
DTLA – On multiple occasions in recent years, this page has addressed Metro Charter Elementary School’s frustrating struggle to find a permanent home. Time and again we have called on elected leaders, the business community, landlords, developers — anyone with power and resources, really — to help the school secure a campus. And, like a broken record, there have been warnings that without a stable school — and ideally, more than one — Downtown will suffer in the future, as families will leave the area for neighborhoods where they can be assured that their children will have access to a high-quality free elementary school, whether they choose a public school of the traditional or charter variety.
Yet Metro Charter’s extended attempts to find that permanent home are bearing little fruit, and now there are repercussions. As Los Angeles Downtown News recently reported, enrollment in the current school year fell by around 60 students. That was in the wake of a deeply unsatisfying split-campus plan: Third through fifth graders are taking classes in an office building at 700 Wilshire Blvd., while the youngest kids, in kindergarten through second grade, are put on a bus each day and driven to a church-owned facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in South L.A.
Downtown Los Angeles is failing one of its most important institutions. It is well beyond time for those who have the power to make a difference to actually do so.
Metro Charter’s principal and board have toured and done due diligence on scores of potential sites all around Downtown. Yet time and again they have been undone by the economics of the modern Downtown boom. To simplify, developers and landlords see the ability to get more money from restaurants, shops or other businesses than they do from a school. Throw in the fact that Metro Charter wants a property it can occupy for decades and you wind up with the situation at hand.
Metro Charter officials hope that in the fall the lower grades can be back in the core of Downtown, but this would still mean a split campus. That’s less than ideal, as it divides resources and the attention of the administrative staff and teachers, not to mention posing logistical difficulties for parents who have kids at two campuses.
The developers of some proposed mega-projects have discussed setting aside space for a charter school in the future. That’s great, but those efforts are years from fruition. Metro Charter needs a home now.
We call again for a local leader to pick up this issue, rope in his or her friends, and help find a location and ink the deal that school officials have been unable to make. It may take arm twisting. It may take offering incentives. It will certainly require creativity.
It’s distressing to think that in a community faring as well as Downtown, with so much money coursing through the area and so many new stores, restaurants and businesses opening, no one can figure out how to make a school economically viable.
Downtown, its students and its families deserve better.
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