A year after Aveson Charter School's 6-12 grade school was moved from its campus at the top of Allen Avenue after neighborhood complaints about the school, the school has finally found a more permanent home in Pasadena for the 250 students who attend it.
The campus will be at 1206 N. Lincoln Avenue, where a private school facility is currently located, and Aveson has a five-year lease to take over the space this fall.
But moving to that campus was not the school administration's first choice, said Kate Bean, the director of Aveson's K-5 program in Altadena. Instead, the administration preferred to relocate to the campus of , which will no longer host an elementary school at its campus.
Bean was well aware that Burbank is in the same area where neighbors opposed having high-school age students in the first place, and she asked Pasadena Unified School District officials to give her a chance to make her pitch directly to the public.
The school never got that chance.
"We did not get an answer in any kind of timely manner that would have allowed us to even discuss the idea with the community," Bean said.
The District Response
District officials instead told her that neighbors in the area would never accept a school, she said.
Carla Boykin, PUSD’s coordinator for mandated programs and charter schools, told Patch that while Aveson's formal first choice was for the vacated Loma Alta campus, the school made repeated requests for the Burbank campus from January to May of this year.
Boykin said that district officials already had as far back as January and that they also felt that the neighborhood around Burbank is not "suitable for middle and high school-age students."
Instead, Bean said, the district offered three buildings at John Muir High School, a solution that Bean saw as inappropriate, as it would have mixed students as young as 11 years old into the middle of a campus with older students, and spread the students out across the campus.
Offering the Muir facility fulfilled the district's legal obligation to provide space to a charter school, but with two newly-opened campuses in Altadena, Bean said she was baffled that Muir was the district's suggestion.
The new facility on Lincoln Avenue will be a big step up for the school, which has been meeting in a small space at the Pasadena Boys and Girl Club where they have to set up and break down classrooms each day. But Burbank would have given Aveson students an auditorium, a full-sized cafeteria, and sports facilities.
The move to the Lincoln Avenue facility marks the end of a serious attempt to keep the campus in Altadena. The school was told to move by PUSD in the Spring of 2010 after a group of neighbors filed a lawsuit about the school - rather than fight it, the district offered to relocate Aveson to the campus of John Muir High School.
But Aveson officials tried their hardest to find their own upper-level campus in Altadena, near their elementary school: in addition to requesting the Burbank space, Aveson officials at the northeast corner of Lincoln and Loma Alta, requested the campus at Loma Alta Elementary, and even met with community members about moving to the former campus of the Edison Elementary school at 3126 Glenrose Avenue.
Whether or not Altadena residents would have accepted upper level students in their neighborhood is a matter for debate: Gino Sund, a town council member who lives near Aveson and was part of the opposition to having the upper level schools there, said in an interview in Patch that he believes the same objections would be applied to Aveson at the Burbank campus.
Prior to a meeting about Burbank's future in June someone circulated fliers about Aveson moving to campus and it was an issue raised at the meeting.
Sund said that he still opposes having a high school in the area and figures a lot of local residents would feel the same way.
"I take the view that these small intimate school sites are not legitimate venues for a high school," Sund said.
The issues at the time with neighbors were traffic, noise, parking, and more Sund said. Older kids tend to be at campus more often, he said. Additionally, turning Burbank into a high school site would probably make it likely that the site would never revert back to an elementary school use in future years, Sund added.
Kim Kenne, the sole PUSD board member from Altadena, also said her experience has been that there has been a lot of opposition from neighborhood members.
"It was amazing how much ill will there was," said Kenne, who was not on the board at the time but was active in PUSD affairs.
The District and Charter Schools
But some community members have also expressed on on this site their concerns that Altadena has become too rigid in its opposition to schools and express their wish that Aveson had been able to find a home in town.
For Bean's part, she believes that many people don't give the same priority to charter school students as they do to others.
"Often charter school students are not seen as public school students, but that's what they are," Bean said.
Ramon Miramontes, a PUSD board member, said that he understands Aveson's frustrations as his experience with PUSD under Superintendent Diaz was that the district did not have "a good working relationship with charter schools."
He said that was one issue that he considered during the hiring process for the .
Kenne echoed Miramontes' concerns - though she was not on the board when Aveson was forced to move its 6-12 grade students out of Altadena, she said" it felt like PUSD went back on its promise when it kicked the 6-12 out."
And all too often, Kenne said, it seems like either the district is closing a school the community does not want or getting heat for closing a school the community does want.
"I feel like we should have taped and gotten the name of everyone who says don't close its school to show later when people seem to want a school closed," Kenne said.
Redmond Carolipio contributed to the reporting on this story