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HMG-LCCN Two-Part Series: THE CRUMBLING OF ABCUSD SCHOOLS

 

 

October 29, 2018
By Brian Hews and Tammye McDuff
All photos by Tammye McDuff

 

Measure BB is a $248 million general obligation bond measure that will provide ABCUSD students with improved and upgraded school facilities that are safe, secure and modern. ABC residents will vote on the bond in the upcoming election on November 6.

ABC is only one of nine school districts that has not passed a bond since the 1990’s, and it shows.

HMG-LCCN decided to tour some of the schools in the district and what we found was shocking; equipment that does not work, hazardous conditions, leaking bathrooms, outdated lockers, non ADA compliance, and so much more.

The first three schools we toured were Artesia High, and Ross Middle & Hawaiian Elementary Schools. The stories are below.

Artesia High School

Artesia High School, the oldest high school in the district, was built in 1955.  We toured with Brian Cota, the General Maintenance Director at AHS, and Principal Sergio Garcia.

There have been very few upgrades to AHS since its opening. In the late 1990’s some improvements were made such as removing asbestos and upgrading parts of the electrical infrastructure, but many things were left unfinished. 

The first thing we noticed was that many of the ceilings were still made of wood and visible wood rot could be seen.

Even the basic necessities, need to be addressed. For a school that sees 1,400 students on a daily basis, there are only two working bathrooms and only on one side of the campus.

“No improvements have been made to the bathrooms since the 1970’s,” said Cota, “The boys bathroom has three stalls and eleven urinals, but no privacy dividers, plus two of the urinals need to be replaced. The girls’ bathroom, although it has several more stalls, they are made of wood and need to be swapped out. Each bathroom has one handicapped facility, and all too often we have flooding in one or both of the bathrooms.” 

 

Bathrooms at Artesia High are broke and the area often floods in both the boys and girls facilities.

 

 

Principal Garcia did say that before 2005, there were bathrooms in each of the buildings, but they removed.

Other major issues include repairing stucco, completely replacing odd-shaped tiles, and replacing outdated lockers.

“Even though our kids have lockers, the company that made them no longer has the parts for this particular design, so if they break or need repair, we are out of luck,” said Garcia.

Taking a tour of the science rooms, it was noted that there were only four science stations to be divided between 30 students. 

The access to water or gas, which frequently does not work, allows only three students at a time to utilize the equipment; no apparatus exists at the teacher’s desk for demonstration purposes. 

It has been twenty years since the science classes have received new desks. The materials they are made from prevent Bunsen burners or any type of experimentation due to fire hazards. 

Temporary classrooms are still in use, “When I first came here, I was told that these classrooms were not functional and were actually condemned. After some renovations, we had to put them back into use because of the need for space. And these classrooms are where our special ed classes are held.” 

Automotive Instructor Marty Supple has been with the high school for 13 years, “We need independent seating for students, right now we have three and four students sharing a desk.”

 

1970’s era welder used in auto and metal shop at Artesia High.

 

Additional automotive tools, updated computers and equipment are desperately needed. Supple is teaching kids how to work on computerized automobiles without technology. 

“Students want to go Cerritos College but the lack of proper equipment makes it a real challenge,” said Supple. 

Gahr HS and Artesia HS share Artesia’s outdated pool, shockingly it is not an Olympic sized pool and it is only four feet deep. 

Water polo games are challenging as the goalie can actually stand up; there are no touch pads for swimming competitions; heating equipment has not worked in years and spectator stands are still made of wood and are in poor condition.

 

The pool heaters at Artesia High do not work.

 

Garcia commented, “Our teachers have to balance so many things, deal with a desperate need for working and upgraded equipment and still manage to turn out some of the best students  in the nation. We could do so much more, if we had the funding.”

 

Ross Middle School

Built in 1948, Ross MS is a performing arts school that produces and televises plays and shows. The main class room used for production is extremely small and is in need of new equipment.

Ross has 645 students and the room can only accommodate 300 students.

“A big need for us is updated audio and video equipment as well as sound equipment and a renovation of our multipurpose room,” said Principal  Priscilla Rodriquez.  The classroom is not only used for assemblies and plays, it is also an alternative in inclement weather.

Rodriguez uses the room during inclement weather because the school’s lunch area does not have shading or protection during rain, wind or heat, “it looks the same as it did in the 1960’s,” said Rodriquez.

 

The lunch area at Ross does not have shading, children have to eat in an overcrowded multi-purpose room during inclement weather.

 

Rodriguez has been at Ross for over two years and has managed to implement some critical improvements, mostly to make the school safer. 

As you walk into the front, there are three options, one door to the right, a set of double doors and another door to the left with an arrow saying “Office”.  The double doors, at one time, could grant access to anyone coming onto the school grounds  but Rodriguez changed that; students and visitors can exit, but no one can enter. 

The hallways adjacent to the staff offices were enclosed many years ago and do not  have heating or air-conditioning, it is basically an unusable space.  “I could really use that space for the front office, we could even have a waiting area for students, parents or visitors,” said Rodriquez. “There is no reason for outsiders to be able to enter the school property at will.”

Locker rooms for PE are a great concern for Ross. The showers are not utilized, and are now wasted space. “Even if we did use them, there are privacy issues and no curtains,” noted Rodriguez. 

The school lockers are very old, and, similar to Artesia High, if damaged or broken they cannot be repaired. Storage is also an issue due to the size of the locker, “Students cannot fit their clothes and their backpacks inside a locker at the same time, so the backpacks must be kept outside where teachers and students can keep an eye on them.” 

“The other thing that is a big mess for us is the technology infrastructure,” stated Rodriquez, “We are a one-to-one school, which means that every student has access to a computer in all of their core classes.” 

Although this sounds like an upgrade and modernization, the wiring and infrastructure has not been upgraded to handle it. 

 

Video and audio equipment must be tethered together to run the TV show at Ross MS.

 

“Because we are a performing arts school, students put on a news show every day and broadcast the show into each classroom. Each room is equipped with a television, however due to the lack of proper infrastructure most days the news announcements will drop, the WiFi cannot sustain the use.”

“Sometimes we just plug it and cross our fingers,” said Rodriquez. 

 

Hawaiian Elementary

Constructed in the 1950’s, Hawaiian Elementary School’s last modernization was in the 90’s. The daily wear and tear to the classrooms, inside and out, is evident. Windows are outdated and need insulation, furniture needs to be replaced and modernized so students can easily work alone or in groups. 

“The furniture is old,” Principal Myra Lozano told HMG-LCCN, “we have teachers that have bought their own furniture in order to store and equip their classrooms properly, some of the chairs wobble and the desks don’t have enough space for a student to work and store books.”

“There are some areas here that were never upgraded, several of our bathrooms are unusable,” said Lozano, “I have many parents that were students here, and they say it hasn’t changed at all.”

 

Bathrooms at Hawaiian Elementary. There are only two bathrooms in the school’s public areas. One for boys, with only one stall and two urinals, and one for girls with three stalls. Each bathroom is barely ADA compliant.

 

Hawaiian sits next to the Long Beach Water Department and the Coyote Creek, alarmingly, water bugs and roaches are a common problem in the offices and classrooms.

Security is also a problem. The school does have a perimeter fence alongside the creek, but transients occasionally hop the fence and sleep on school grounds having to be shooed away by school personnel.

“Security cameras across the school would be immensely helpful,” said Lozano, “we could certainly monitor things much better.”

Similar to Artesia and Ross, the school’s infrastructure is very old and outdated. To add WiFi to the school, servers had to be placed inside various rooms. Because servers need to kept at a constant temperature, these rooms run continuously cold. 

One server was placed in the nurse’s station and is kept behind a curtain. The server constantly emits a low rumble, like a motorcycle engine. “My poor nurse and sick students have to deal with the noise and the rumble everyday,” said Lozano. 

“On top of that if the WiFi goes out, we have to go back to the old way of teaching or looking up information, we keep a hard copy of everything, because we just don’t know when the WiFi  will go out.”

Another area that needs improvement is the parking lot and drop off area.  The flow of incoming traffic must be monitored at all times, and many staff vehicles have been damaged due to badly designed influx of cars creating a hazard to everyone at the school.

“The parking lot and front of the school have been mostly untouched. There had been some modernization with the first bond in 1997, however there were projects that were not able to be finished,” said Lozano.

Hawaiian Elementary School believes every child should succeed, “Bond Measure BB is important to us for several reasons,” said Lozano, “we could certainly be on our way to make sure all of our students DO succeed.”

[email protected]

@cerritosnews

 

 

 

 

 

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Brian: cerritos.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=15&clip_id=4251 Agree with most of the photos/ stories in your editorial. I did A Walk Thru at some campuses and found the same. My question first to the school budget, sold off part of Whitney High School, sold off adult education center on Studebaker, in 1997 we passed a school bond, and then in 2001, the board made a statement that all campuses have completed through modernization. District has gone thru a lot of money……..plus certified that modernization was completed. Most of the comments and photos in your editorial show ongoing maintenance issues, and those aren’t facility improvements, those… Read more »