Day school stays open for now

DOWNEY - After weeks of uncertainty surrounding the possible closure of several alternative education programs in Los Angeles County, students and teachers at Downey Community Day School are breathing sighs of relief today after local school districts agreed to absorb the extra costs needed to keep the school open.The decision on Wednesday was made just hours before the school was scheduled to close due to sharp budget cuts within the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which still plans to close 20 other independent study and community day schools throughout Los Angeles County. Downey Community Day School, located at 12432 Bellflower Blvd., was informed on June 7, along with 22 other alternative education programs, that it must shut down on June 30 due to financial constraints and low enrollment. With state funding down 20 percent for the 2009-10 fiscal year, the schools are struggling with a $3.8 million deficit. Upon hearing the news, 52-year-old Rudy Spivery, a teacher at Downey Community Day School, sent a letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the school's faculty protesting the decision, pleading with county officials to keep the school open. Although Spivery's job security is still questionable, he expressed excitement over the county's decision to work with local school districts to maintain services at the school site for at least another year. "Today, we're seeing some of the fruit of our labor," said Spivery over the phone. "I've been at this for three weeks - it's been an emotional roller coaster, but I'm glad we were able to bring this to the light and work together to do what they weren't doing in the past - get these schools on track." In addition to Downey, the Downey Community Day School also serves the communities of Bellflower, Paramount, Norwalk, La Mirada, Lynwood and Whittier. Currently, the Los Angeles County Office of Education operates 53 community day schools and independent study programs throughout Los Angeles County that serve nearly 1,700 students in total. These specialized programs were established to provide educational opportunities for juvenile offenders on probation, students who have been expelled, pregnant teens and new mothers and those who can't return to traditional schools for various reasons. Most of the schools operate year-round. Margo Minecki, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, acknowledged that the closures were unfortunate, but maintained that they were necessary in order to accommodate state cutbacks. "We don't like closing programs that help kids, but similar programs all across the state are hitting rock-bottom," said Minecki. "We provide these programs as a service - we're a service agency. But many [school] districts are saying that these are their students and they will provide for them." Despite the closures, Minecki said that the office of education will still operate more than 30 alternative education programs across Los Angeles County. "We're making sure that any kids affected will have a program," Minecki said. "There are charter schools, continuation programs and the local high schools in their district, which is ultimately there to service them." During Tuesday's meeting of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, county officials said news of the program cuts caught them by surprise. On July 13, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will reconsider a proposal at its meeting to request that the schools remain open for at least 30 days. The measure, as proposed by Supervisor Don Knabe, urges the office of education to work with local districts to find a way to keep the schools open, including cost-sharing arrangements.

********** Published: July 1, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 11