Official: District 'Screwed Up' on Burbank Elementary Plan

A Monday night meeting on the future of the soon-to-be closed school site was a rowdy one, with many angry Altadenans expressing their frustration about the lack of transparency and public input regarding PUSD's reconfiguration plan

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/14/2011

At a very contentious and hastily put together community meeting Monday night about the future of the site, which was at the end of this school year by the Pasadena Unified Board of Education last November, four PUSD officials gave a presentation about their Burbank Elementary reconfiguration plan for the site.
The plan, which would expand parking at the school to accommodate new preschools and nonprofits, is the only one currently being considered by PUSD, and district officials aim to begin implementing the proposed changes this summer if the board approves it, with the goal of finishing it by September.
Many of the audience members, which totaled about 100 people, at Monday's meeting were very upset about the way the meeting was organized, announced and carried out, as well as the lack of public input on the plan, the lack of transparency regarding the plan, and the closure of Burbank Elementary in the first place.
District officials were quick to acknowledge that it was a mistake to bring the plan to the school board for a vote last month without first informing the Altadena public.
"I screwed up," David Azcarraga, the district's chief facilities officer, said. "Staff screwed up. We will come back to you with a more thorough presentation before the board votes on it. Staff members and I have our homework to do, and we will be more transparent."
The vote, which took place on May 24, failed after a 3-3 tie on the motion to move the plan forward.  There was no public comment on the item at the time.
Audience members spoke out at the meeting about several of the specific recommended changes in the plan, including street parking, the c, the planned access route to the proposed lot, and the hours of operation of the various administrative and educational functions that the plan calls for.

The reconfiguration plan includes utilizing existing buildings and facilities for a multi-use educational and administrative setup, with a couple different preschools and PUSD-related offices operating there, as well as a construction project that could cost up to $200,000. That project includes:
  • Renovating some rooms and buildings.
  • Converting most of the grass field to asphalt for a parking lot that could fit 75 to 80 spaces.
  • Building a preschool playground area and equipment.
  • The relocation of LAUP, a nonprofit special education preschool currently located at
  • The relocation of Hodges Children Center preschool program which is currently located at 136 W. Peoria Street in Pasadena
  • Construction of office space for PUSD's Mental Health program which is currently located at McKinley School and operates at 11 schools in the area.
  • Relocation of other professional development offices for staff training of teachers, principals, and administrative staff.
"As far as I know, this will not be a stop-gap reconfiguration," Azcarraga said.  "This plan will not be temporary. Unless enrollment increases in PUSD, this will be a permanent setup, as far as I've been told."

Residents Unaware of Previous Meetings
This is the first time most of the nearby residents had heard anything about most of the plan's changes to and occupiers of the site, though the same presentation was given to the school board at its May 24 meeting and at a June 7 subcommittee meeting.
The board has not voted on the plan yet, and both Azcarraga and Board member Ed Honowitz assured the crowd that it was not on the agenda for tonight's meeting. The earliest the board will see it on the agenda is June 28, according to Azcarraga.
"We're not ready to go to the school board and present them with a finalized plan," he said.
The point of the meeting, according to Azcarraga, was to clear up some of the rumors that had been going around about what was going to happen to the site, including the idea that would be relocating its Pasadena high school there.
Aveson did request the space but board member Tom Selinske said the request has been denied and there is no chance that the school will occupy the Burbank Elementary site.

Public Reaction
Many people in the audience expressed frustration that they were not included in the process of formulating this plan, that they were not even notified quickly or sufficiently enough about Monday's meeting, and that there is very little time left for public input.
They also said an Environmental Impact Report should be conducted, which Azcarraga confirmed is not taking place and will not take place unless directed by the school board to do so.
Audience members said they didn't feel included in this process and felt they were forced into a plan that seems to be already on its way to being cemented into place.
One woman said, "This plan is just awful. Altadenans have not been treated fairly throughout this whole process."