Mixed Reaction To Closed Campus Possibility

By Brandon HENSLEY

Drug use and safety concerns for Crescenta Valley students during lunchtime has Glendale Unified School District Officials considering closing the campus for the period. That was the main topic during the CV Town Council meeting Sept. 22, in which some questions were answered and tempers momentarily flared.

GUSD officials Dr. John Garcia and Mary Boger were present and engaged in a lengthy discussion for why they are considering closing the campus during lunch, an issue that still has a ways to go before being decided.

Garcia presented figures from the 2010-11 school to the audience, just like he had in a recent GUSD board meeting, showing what GUSD officials believe the effects of the open campus policy has led to.

Last school year, Garcia said there was a daily average of about 37 unverified absences for fifth period, the period after lunch, and “about the same” for sixth period. For the first four periods combined, the daily average was 29.

School officials and parents in favor of closing the campus cite drugs and traffic problems for their reasoning. Garcia said over the past five years, CV has had 41 drug expulsions, more than other district schools Hoover and Glendale High. The complaints are that students go off campus to get drugs and come back high.

“There is a drug problem,” said Garcia, who answered question from comment cards. “It really is a concern of ours.”

There’s also the issue of students racing back to campus to not be late for fifth period and causing potential problems on the street. Garcia said there were two accidents last year, including one fender bender.

The goal of closing the campus, said Garcia and Boger, would be to eliminate risky behavior and keep students safe.

“My first priority is the safety of the students in this community,” Garcia said. He also said he could not comment on how a closed campus would affect local businesses and that safety was the No. 1 concern.

Some have suggested extending the 35-minute lunch period, that kids are rushing back because the lines at food places are too long.

“We wouldn’t be convinced at this point that extending the lunch period would do anything than extending the lunch period,” Garcia said.

Boger too is in favor of a closed campus, and said it has worked fine for the Hoover and Glendale campuses.

“There’s a different culture in this community about closing this school than there was about Glendale High closing the school,” she said.

Tensions arose, if only for a minute, when councilmember Harry Leon raised his voice and said he was upset that drug-using students aren’t caught around town in places where students know that is where they go to get drugs.

“What are we doing as a community?” Leon said to Boger. “You are an elected official, I am an elected official. What are we doing?”

“The question is, when your child tells you they know where drugs are being sold,” Boger answered, “did you ask them to confide in you and give the exact information? Because that’s what we need.”

Some in the audience had concerns about punishing every student for the actions of some.

“Those kids who choose to use drugs, and if they’re the problem, you hold them personally accountable and responsible for that drug use, not everyone else’s kids on that campus,” said parent Dave Devens. “Where’s the individual responsibility and accountability when you have the students’ name at the time he’s found high on campus?”

Boger said it isn’t the same kids that are coming back high or drunk, because they have already been expelled. It is a different group of students on a daily basis.

Sandra Martinez, who has a son at Rosemont Middle School, wants a closed campus because when her son gets to CV, she doesn’t want him potentially getting in accidents with friends or being around groups that buy drugs.

“The other schools, they don’t have the high drug rate, but CV does,” Martinez said after the meeting. “You don’t have to destroy the beauty of the school just to have a closed campus. You don’t have to do that.”

CV senior Jacob Magana is in favor of keeping an open lunch.

“It’s a de-stress moment for students. It’s not just a time to go and get high,” he said.

The other featured topic of the night concerns The Arroyo & Foothills Conservancy plan to purchase the 7.75-acre parcel of wilderness land at the top of Rosemont Avenue. The property is currently privately owned. The goal of the Conservancy is to make the property publicly accessible and have it made suitable for hikers, joggers and bird watchers.

John Howell and Paul Rabinov from the Conservancy were there to talk about this and to ask the council to affirm this acquisition as a high priority. That would mean writing a letter to L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich telling him exactly that. Howell said the County office is open to funding some of the project if it is indeed a high priority.

The cost of the project is $450,000. Howell said funds would need to come from other places.

“We would like government agencies and foundations to cover the great majority of that,” he said. The Conservancy would ask the community to make up the difference if additional funds were needed.

There will be more discussion on this during the Oct. 13 CVTC Land Use Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. at La Crescenta Library.

The Town Council elections are Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Applications to run are due Oct. 16.

The next Town Council meeting will be held Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at the La Crescenta Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta.