Canyon Elementary School Needs Update

The proposed new two-story building at Canyon school, would move kindergarten classrooms on campus. The historic building (right) would be moved. Rendering: Johnson Favaro Architects.

Two Construction Phases Planned

“The Devils in the details,” could be said about the proposed Canyon Elementary School upgrade.

The school has an excellent academic record and is a top choice among people outside of the area hoping to win a lottery to attend this top-ranked charter school.

Parents raise money to provide all sorts of extras, such as art, technology, gardening, music, physical education and journalism. This is the kind of public school that provides innovative learning and has top teachers.

So, what’s the problem? The historic one-room school house, which is still on campus now serves for a library. But the facility is a mishmash. The three kindergarten rooms are separated from the administration building and the rest of the campus by a parking lot. And those rooms can be easily accessed from the street.

They are located on the corner of Entrada Drive and Amalfi, which is a heavily traveled thoroughfare between Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. People traveling along Pacific Coast Highway often use Entrada as a cut through if PCH is blocked.

Additionally, when student numbers rose on school campuses citywide, including Canyon, portable buildings were brought onto campuses. LAUSD purchased Department of Housing (DOH) portables in 1990s and in 2000s, but these units are no longer approved for classrooms.

LAUSD has removed them from all but 16 campuses, including Canyon. “We have to remove them and replace them immediately!” said LAUSD Senior Facilities Development Manager Scott Singletary about the two classrooms located next to the administration building.

Phase 1 of the Canyon School redo includes removal of the DOH portables, replacing with new and making ADA code updates. If everything is done correctly and quickly, it could be completed by spring 2020.

This would include completion of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), which would most likely take through the summer. According to Singletary the construction for this phase, once environmental reports are done, is fast and would take about four months: a couple of days to take the building out, a couple of weeks to put in a new foundation, a month or two for utility trenching. The estimated cost for phase 1 and for phase 2 design is $3,912,025.

Parents wanted to know why it couldn’t wait and be done over the summer of 2020. “We have to get the portables out as soon as possible,” Singletary said, explaining it was a legal issue. “The State thinks we’re negligent for not doing it sooner.”

Phase 2 would be the construction of a two-story, seven-classroom building along Almalfi. The lower three classrooms would be for kindergarten and it would include a separate playground. Next to it would be a one-story science building.

This is a one-to-one replacement and no extra students would be added to the campus.

The renderings of proposed new building and redesigned campus have been done by Johnson Favaro Architects, who have completed the UCLA Hedrick Study, the Manahttan Beach Library, the Pasadena Museum of Art and a building for the Chaffey College at the Chino Campus. The firm is currently rebuilding The Center for Early Education campus, a private school for toddlers through grade 6.

Jim Favaro, who received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Stanford and his master’s in architecture from Harvard, explained the building and layout. “This is amazing geography,” he said about the Canyon School site. “There is a feeling of living in the country, while in an urban area. We wanted to capitalize on the best of all worlds.”

He said they elected to put the new two-story building on the north side of campus because it makes an L-shaped configuration with the rest of the school—additionally since the street curves, “It puts the building back away from the street,” Favaro said. “We’re moving the play yard to the center of the campus and giving the kindergarten its own play yard next to Amalfi.”

The pick up and drop off would not change. The parapet on the two-story building would be 37 feet and would be done to hide the mechanical equipment on the roof from neighbors (some of whose houses are that same height).

Parking would in front of the administration building and expanded to where the current kindergarten building (which will be removed) is now.

There are currently 66 trees and an oak and a sycamore, which are protected, on campus. Those two trees would be saved. Additionally, 23 trees would have to be removed for construction, but 49 trees would be added, with a net gain of 26.

Singletary said, “It’s an elegant design and these guys have done a great job.”

Parents lined up to ask questions and comment. Many wanted the two-story school building to be relocated away from homes by Almalfi and along the busy Entrada. Others wanted it scaled down, they felt that 37 feet was too high. Yet, other parents worried about safety, noise and construction.

Canyon teacher fifth grade teacher and UTLA Representative Akimi Sujishi-Watson said, “This is a thoughtful plan, and what I’d like the community to remember is the teachers really want this to happen.

“The bungalows are noisy,” she said. “We need to bring the kindergarten onto campus. We need to be closer together.

“Please open your minds a little bit,” Sujishi-Watson said. “We’ve lived through house construction for the past 25 years [adjacent to the school]. I know the District doesn’t want to do anything that will you have you [parents] on their tails. They will do everything correctly.”

LAUSD Spokesperson Ashley Mercado promised more meetings to address concerns.

One person asked, “What if you get less money to build the school?”

And now those pesky details. There is no estimated cost for phase 2 and Singletary said, “The project has not yet been funded.”


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