Thursday, April 14, 2011

San Diego County Grand jury raises questions about library school

By Maureen Magee

Monday, April 11, 2011 at 6:36 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — Plans to put a school in the new downtown library has raised questions about student safety and basic operations by the San Diego County Grand Jury, which called on Superintendent Bill Kowba to address problems identified in a report released Monday.

In its “rush to break ground” on the new central library project, civic leaders failed to anticipate “unintended consequences” of putting a school on two floors of the new central library, according to the report.

Among the concerns outlined in the report: how transients and child predators visiting the library would be kept away from students; how the campus would be protected from vandals; a lack of parking spaces (only six are designated for the school and 30 more are available for a monthly fee of $170); and questions over where students will eat lunch.

“I feel like the district should have done more research,” said grand jury Foreman Richard Carlson. “It seems like the district handed over $20 million for this thing to help the library...”

Last April, the San Diego Unified School District approved a 40-year, $20 million lease to take over the sixth and seventh floors of the library that is set to open in July 2013. That investment revived the languishing library project that was desperate for funding. The district has since committed another $10 million to design and outfit the campus that will be run by an undesignated independent charter high school.

San Diego Unified is reviewing the report and will issue a response within 90 days, as required by law.

“We will take a serious and detailed look at the recommendations,” said district spokesman Bernie Rhinerson. “We just got it. It’s too soon provide a response.”

The grand jury has urged Kowba to name the school’s charter operator before any more plans are approved for the project. Once a charter is awarded, the grand jury has recommended that the school leaders write a plan for assuring the safety of up to 400 students. The report also recommends that the district try to determine who would attend the new charter school — existing teenagers living downtown or students who are projected to be living in the city’s urban core by the time the campus opens. (619) 293-1369

Online: To view the report, go to

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