A school of last resort in Watts, which serves youths who were found to be unsuitable for other campuses, is battling to keep its home.
And the landlord that wants it out of at least one building is none other than the city of Los Angeles. More specifically, it's the office of area city Councilman Joe Buscaino.
But before you take sides with the underdog, consider that there's more to the story than meets the eye. The school is called the the Institute of Service-Learning, Power, and Intersectional Research (INSPIRE), and it provides a last-ditch lifeline for 17- to 24-year-olds who want to get diplomas:
The folks at INSPIRE, who are holding an afternoon march today to protest the planned eviction, say that Buscaino's office wants …
… control of at least one of the buildings that the school leases for its classrooms and community events. This would displace a minimum of 90 students, and potentially the entire body of 150 students, whose other options for school are either unsafe, prohibitively expensive, or nonexistent altogether.
The institution, part of the John Muir Charter School, opened in October of 2012 for nine students and says it will “resist the displacement of students” in order to serve those youths are have been “pushed out” by other institutions.
School officials claim that, after first hearing of a proposal to move them out of a room in January, they've tried to multiple times to meet with Buscaino but that requests to do so ” have fallen on deaf ears.”
(The head of the school, Alejandro Covarrubias, was scheduled to meet with the councilman today, a spokeswoman said).
Buscaino's office, which says the eviction is not yet a sure thing, tells a different story about the situation:
The school makes $8,500 per student a year from taxpayers but pays no rent.
-The building in question is rundown, perhaps not up to code, and unsuitable for students.
-That building can hold 90 people, but the school actually has nearly 200 students.
-Buscaino's office has had “multiple conversations” with the school, but instead of working with the councilman Covarrubias decided to immediately take to the streets.
-Buscaino's office is spending $120,000 a year on rent next door and needs the space for a revamped Watts Civic Center. Using the school's building could save taxpayers' money.
-School officials have decided to use protests instead of negotiations to make their point:
“The guy who runs it, instead of engaging us, he engaged the students to protest – way too early in the process,” said a spokesman for the councilman. “We gave them the space. They grew way too big. They don't want to have a real dialogue about it. They want to protest.”
School officials say they're simply fighting for the underserved students of Watts, who have a less than 50 percent graduation rate from high school:
INSPIRE is mobilizing to resist the displacement of students, the educational disenfranchisement of Watts youth, and the loss of community space. … INSPIRE serves as a beacon of hope for the youth, families, and future of the community. Displacing INSPIRE, or any other successful youth program, such as YO Watts, would be a step in the wrong direction.