The grass peeps through cracks on the asphalt of Warren Lane Elementary School built in 1947, formally known as Daniel Freeman, as a group of concerned parents and community members planned protest is gathering steam outside on a blistering April day.
Inside the antiquated school staff in the front office candidly answer questions that has been swirling since Inglewood Unified School District voted to close it on Jan. 24 via Zoom.
Warren Lane is located in a middle class neighborhood which consist of modern homes outfitted with manicured grass lawns, occupied by aging homeowners.
Except for the few whose children are quickly approaching the age where they could enroll them in the kindergarten-6 Grade school. These are the proud but few parents who are exhausting their efforts to keep Warren Lane open.
Those efforts have been rendered mute for four months now, but it has not prevented them from voicing their displeasure with the choice to shut it down.
To them it doesn’t appear to matter that Warren Lane test scores rank in the bottom 50% of all schools in California according to a study conducted in 2018-19.
Located in the East region of IUSD, the school was priority No. 1 to be shuttered because of its shrining population, down to 143 students from its capacity of 540 at its peak.
Since 2013 enrollment at all IUSD schools have been in steep decline from 12,119 to a projected 6,781 by the year 2024.
So well before the COVID-19 pandemic the enrollment has been at crisis levels, so much so that keeping predominantly Black school open with 10 other elementary schools in the district was feasibly impossible.
The district conducted an open and public School Closure/Consolidation Committee via Zoom on Jan. 24 with the input of parents, teachers and administrators that determined Warren Lane fate.
However, the pleas to keep it open and not subsided, in fact it has intensified.
Many point the finger of blame at Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) appointed Administrator Erika F. Torres alleging that she hastily decided to shut down the school.
They requested through this reporter that Torres hire an arbitrator to evaluate the Warren Lane closure and render an independent decision and also allege that the appointed County Administrator refuses to meet with the group.
This in the face of publicly held meetings to which they were invited and attended
Moreover, others at the rally said they attended to protest Warren Lane being sold to a developer that would transform the site into low income housing, something these home owners adamantly are against.
I received a call from someone accusing this publication of being sold out to Inglewood Unified School District for not publishing an opinionated article against the closing of Warren Lane.
The author of that article is Joe Bowers, a reliable and valued education advocate whom I have great admiration for.
However, in this instance, I wanted to carefully comb through what the hard evidence is and then pin a balanced response.
As of this writing, there was not one single study that can be verified that would justify Warren Lane remaining open on a site that appears to be deteriorating with a rapid decrease in enrollment. Modernization of the school would cost $9.8 M.
Staffers at the school will likely be transferred to other schools in the district, while students will be reassigned to Woodworth-Monroe, Kelso or any school of their choice within the district.
IUSD is not exclusive in facing the crisis of students residing in the city not attending neighboring schools.
According an LA Times published article, LAUSD dropped by more than 27,000 students in the fall of 2021 f, an annual decline of close to 6%.
So, for a school that has the fewest students of in within the district and poses a severe financial risk to a district that is on the rebound from the abyss, it is time to close the book on Warren Lane and embrace the options available to the parents and students.
IUSD has endured the cost of losing students to transfer whose parents would rather send their child to school outside the district and that is their prerogative, but the consequences of losing students have forced the closure of Warren Lane and likely others in years to come.
For the district in is incumbent upon them to improve test scores in study areas that parents view as problematic and fix it or they will continue losing students.