2008-05-29 / Front Page

Schools relocated

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

The Las Virgenes Community Learning Center and Indian Hills High School, two alternative education programs based in Calabasas, will move to Agoura Hills next year in a cost-saving move for the local school district.

Indian Hills will move to a new location at Agoura High School, while the Community Learning Center, which opened last year on the campus of A.E. Wright Middle School, will now operate from Sumac Elementary School.

Citing a need to generate revenue instead of cutting programs, the Las Virgenes Unified School District decided to lease the Indian Hills campus to New Village Academy of Calabasas, said Karen Kimmel, the district's chief business official. The lease is expected to earn the district nearly $1 million over the next three years. The sum includes rent and money saved in utilities, Kimmel said.

Indian Hills High School

"Relocatable" buildings from Calabasas High School will be used for the Indian Hills students when they move to Agoura High, said Superintendent Donald Zimring in a recent report to the school board. The buildings will be regrouped into a courtyard configuration near the existing "W" buildings, he said.

A separate toilet facility will also be brought onto the campus, Zimring said. Grading and other work will be completed in the summer so the school will be fully operational in the fall.

Jeanette Ober, principal of Indian Hills High School, said Agoura High Principal Larry Misel will become principal for both schools.

"I have no clue what I'll be doing next year," Ober said. "I have a job, but don't know yet what it is. I'm trained. . . . I can do just about anything."

Ober has been an administrator in the district for 20 years and served as assistant principal at Agoura High before accepting the post of principal at Indian Hills in 2006.

Cindy Iser, school board president, said the Indian Hills move to Agoura High fits in with the board's vision for the school to "eventually transition from a continuation school to an alternative high school model." The move will open up opportunities for many more high school students who "learn differently and who need more flexibility and a smaller environment," Iser said.

"The Indian Hills campus was designed for a couple of hundred students, but (the school) typically enrolls 40 to 60 students," Iser said. "The facility was significantly underutilized. . . .

"It makes dollars and sense to utilize public assets in the most cost-efficient manner possible, and in the case of Indian Hills High School that was to lease it on a short-term basis and relocate the program to a location which will, in the long term, serve students better."

Community Learning Center

Zimring said several factors came into consideration when the district developed a plan to move the alternative elementary school, including the importance of providing a "secure" home base for students so the district could expand the program.

Existing empty classrooms on the north side of the Sumac campus will be used for the year-old alternative school program. Sumac Principal Carol Martino will assume administrative responsibilities for both schools, but Jeff Lough will continue to serve as director of the Community Learning Center.

"Sumac is a beautiful campus," Lough said. "We look forward to sharing amenities that we did not have this year, such as a library and a multipurpose room."

Rose Dunn, director of elementary education, said she expects the move will form a "positive partnership" between the schools.

"Everyone is excited about move and the possibility of sharing a wonderful play space, library and computer lab," Dunn said.

The school will open with fewer students next year. Lough said 80 students have enrolled for the fall, compared to the current student population of 96.

Iser said the move to Sumac will offer students access to "all the age-appropriate resources of the campus," including a full playground. "A majority of the students have come from that side of the district, and so we are hopeful the move may attract more students to the program."

Iser said the lease of the learning center's former site at A.E. Wright will generate "sig

nificant revenue," which will offset the need for program cuts expected because of the proposed loss of $2 million of state funds.

The future is bright

Lough has high goals for the

Community Learning Center (LVCLC) next year. He wants to build upon the "right fit" model, which is a move to block scheduling. Students will rotate classes for a reading block according to their skill level, he said.

"This is one way to meet the individual needs of each student and build a school community," Lough said.

A new math curriculum with additional hands-on activities will be introduced next year, and the outdoor education program will be expanded with the district's partnership with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

Art, poetry, world studies, music and storytelling will be integrated into daily lessons next year as well, Lough said.

Iser sees the move of both schools as an opportunity for optimal collaboration. "With both the LVCLC and Indian Hills being separate facilities, there can be a sense of isolation," Iser said.

"Teachers need to be in an environment where they can share and problemsolve together. While each school will remain separate, the professionals at both schools will have access to more colleagues and more resources- all of this is positive," said Iser.

Zimring said the moves were an "ambitious undertaking."

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