L.A. Schools to Make the Most of Their Land
Los Angeles Unified School District officials recognize that their district is part of a tight urban center, and they want to utilize their land in a cost-efficient manner. To do this, they are looking to develop low-cost apartments, parking garages and community centers on multiple campuses in coming years.
Officials have asked real estate developers to submit housing proposals on school campuses with underutilized land. Agreements are being finalized at three sites: Selma Elementary School in Hollywood, Gardena High School in the Harbor Gateway neighborhood, and districtowned land at Glassell Park next to Glassell Park Elementary School.
At Selma Elementary, the district hopes to attract a developer to build four levels of underground parking and at least five levels of housing for teachers and staff members on district land across from the school building site.
But the project could grow considerably taller given the high density of new developments creeping up in Hollywood, says John Creer, LAUSD district director of planning and development.
Selma has lost more than 40 percent of its students in four years, but officials believe new residences could help bring them back.
Officials describe the housing unit projects as an effort to offer employees less expensive housing and closer proximity to their jobs, and to reduce the attrition rate. They say that they could even save $20,000 a year in training costs by reducing job turnovers.
“We’re always trying to utilize our assets better,” says Creer. “But we’re not doing it to the detriment of our core mission, which is to provide education.”
On a district-owned three-acre site next to Gardena High, the district has requested proposals for another housing complex as well as a community center that would serve a variety of functions, which they say will have a developer soon. Just as more and more colleges are providing housing for professors, Creer says, “this is a trend that’s making its way down to the K12 sector.”
A Million Greenbacks for Going Green
Helping the environment may be incentive enough to adopt energy-efficient practices, but one Massachusetts district, in light of the economy, is enjoying even cooler rewards.
Taunton Public Schools has saved more than $1 million in less than three years since forming a strategic alliance with Energy Education, a national energy conservation company that recently presented the 8,100-student district with its Energy Excellence Award.
We have been able to spend this million dollars of energy savings elsewhere in our budget to support education,” says Superintendent Arthur Stellar. “Consequently, we have been able to avoid the major staff layoffs and other significant financial problems of many other districts in Massachusetts,” he says. The district has also been able to keep programs in visual and performing arts, music, and athletics intact.
As part of the program, district energy manager Matt Stellar tracks energy consumption—including electricity, water, natural gas and fuel oil—using energyaccounting software, which allows the district to quickly identify and correct specific utility areas that need attention.
District officials also attend Energy Education conferences and workshops and benefit from consultants who visit the schools to work with educators and custodial staff on adopting practices that lower their carbon footprint.
Thanks to these efforts, says Stellar, “we’ve had to only trim our budget, instead of whack away at it.”