Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

John Burroughs Modernization Moving Along

The updated design proposed for the modernization of John Burroughs Middle School was presented at the community meeting last week.

The modernization of the nearly 100-year-old John Burroughs Middle School is moving along as LAUSD officials presented the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) at a public meeting attended by a small group of neighbors and some school parents on the evening of Thursday, November 21, 2019.

Scott Singletary lead off the presentations by other members of the LA Unified School District’s construction and outreach team. He reviewed the status of the project, initially announced in 2015 when the district identified John Burroughs as one of eleven schools in greatest need of renovation and upgrades. The initial plan proposed removing the Shop building and replacing it with new classroom space.  The revised design now calls for keeping the Shop building, reducing the garden space  in the historic quad, as originally proposed, and adding three smaller buildings that open out into the garden for drama, music and a maker space.

The 2016 design proposal called for removing the Shop building and all the portable buildings, opening up the school’s historic quad.
The updated design keeps the shop building and inserts three new buildings inside the garden/quad space.

Comments from the public, following the presentations, were largely focused on traffic and the potential impact of the construction on the neighborhood and students. Residents asked for more details on how construction would be addressed, where vehicles would park, etc. Others expressed concern about the current traffic jams at drop off and pick up times, citing the modernization project as their best opportunity to move the carpool line off McCadden Place (even though the environmental review process is intended to address just construction traffic, and not the current traffic situation). Following the meeting. John Burroughs Principal Dr. Steve Martinez told the Buzz he is working on setting up a meeting in December to continue discussing the traffic issues in front of and around the school.

“We are continuing to review the document and collect comments from the neighbors before we submit our final DEIR responses from the HPHOA,” said Dave Gajda, a June Street resident and member of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association board, who serves as that group’s liaison to John Burroughs.  “While we appreciate LAUSD listening to our primary issues from the last DEIR and making changes including adding additional bus/car parking (moving the busses to Wilshire Blvd.), and most importantly saving the historic Shop building,” Gajda said, “we still have some issues around the construction timeline (six years),  noise and sound, and the fact that the construction will be continuing for six years while the campus is still in use.”

Historic photo of John Burroughs Middle School (photo from the LAUSD presentation)

Finally, Gajda said he is also concerned about how LAUSD will offer physical education classes if it places temporary classrooms on the current school fields during construction, as proposed. He said neighbors were invited to a meeting earlier in the week that focused on the architectural design, providing residents with an additional opportunity to ask questions.

Dr. Howard Mandel, another June Street resident who also serves as President of the Los Angeles Health Commission, spoke against the project, citing LAUSD’s declining enrollment figures and the potential health impacts of construction.

“The current plans for a school with a population of 1,800 mandates a six-year project with students on site during the academic years,” Mandel wrote to the Buzz in an e-mail. “A safer, more prudent approach would be to temporarily close John Burroughs for two academic years [17 months] and renovate the historic school buildings with a target population of 1,200 to 1,400. Such a plan would safely protect the children who will be attending the school, allow a much shorter construction timeline, and avoid disturbing the century-old land fill that exists under much of the property. It would also save LAUSD $80 million that could be used improving schools in neighborhoods where there are more kids living.”

But so far, LAUSD officials say the school will remain open throughout the construction process, which is expected to be phased across four to five years, according to the presentation, though construction logistics and details have not been finalized.   [Editor’s note: Also, it’s worth noting that revising the construction timeline and target size of the school, as Mandel suggested, would also have to take into account that Burroughs no longer draws students from only its local low-density neighborhood. In fact, about a third of the school’s total enrollment is in its Gifted Magnet program, which is specifically designed, as a federal desegregation effort, to attract students from all over the city. So it would probably be difficult, while retaining that program, to drastically reduce overall enrollment over the long term, or to close the school during construction. ]

The entire presentation made on Thursday evening can be found here. The draft EIR is online and more information on the CEQA process for all LAUSD project underway can also be found here on the LAUSD website.

Comments on the John Burroughs Middle School project can be submitted until December 16,  2019.

Comments can be mailed to:

Edward Paek, CEQA Project Manager LAUSD – OEHS
333 South Beaudry Ave., 21st Floor Los Angeles, CA 90017
or sent by e-mail: [email protected] – please write “Burroughs MS – Comp Mod” in subject line.

For More Information Please Contact:
LAUSD FSD Community Relations
Teresa Akins
[email protected]
(213) 241-1340
(213) 241-1336

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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