Larchmont Charter welcomes Wilshire and Hollygrove@Selma

| August 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

The beginning of the 2023 / 2024 school year is bringing big changes for Larchmont Charter School’s Hollygrove students and staff.

LCS PARENTS and students inspect new campus during an open house in August. Photos by Rose Kim

Last school year ended in June at the Hollygrove campus — the school’s original location when Larchmont Charter School (LCS) opened in 2005. During the ensuing years, LCS expanded to four campuses, with two of them being for elementary grades (transitional kindergarten [TK] through fourth) — one of those being the Fairfax campus and the other being the Hollygrove campus at Vine Street and Waring Avenue.

This year, LCS no longer will have any presence at Hollygrove (the square block of property now owned by Pacific Clinics). That campus’ TK-through-fourth-grade students have been moved to two separate campuses — a new campus (Wilshire) and what’s being called Hollygrove @ Selma.

Amy Held, executive director of LCS, had been notified in the fall of 2021 that Hollygrove’s landlord, Pacific Clinics, planned to redevelop the site, previously the longtime — and final — campus of the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society founded in 1880. Fortunately, Pacific Clinics extended the charter school’s lease through this past July, allowing LCS to search for and prepare a new home.

New Wilshire campus
Finding a new site was quite a challenge, as LCS was established in one of the most densely populated and highly priced real estate markets in Los Angeles. Any new property needed to be zoned to allow a school and, ideally, be large enough to accommodate Hollygrove’s population of 350 pupils. LCS found an available site of a former private school near the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Unfortunately, the site is too small to house all of Hollygrove’s faculty and students.

Initially, it was hoped that the lease at Hollygrove could be extended to continue to house the third- and fourth-grade students there, while the TK-through-second-grade children would move to the new Wilshire property.

LAUSD restrictions
Charter schools in Los Angeles are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The district often provides space and facilities for charter school operators, and the district also approves (or disapproves) the locating of charter schools. Unfortunately, LAUSD did not approve the LCS request to add an additional site (Wilshire) to its current four-site configuration (Hollygrove, Fairfax, Selma and Lafayette Park). A new solution needed to be found.

LCS CLASSMATES Lucas Kim and Libby Kim study the early version of the garden area at the new Wilshire Campus.

A portion of the campus of LAUSD’s Selma Avenue Elementary School (founded in 1910 and located at 6611 Selma Ave. in Hollywood) has, for many years, been home to some LCS students — most recently, fifth through eighth grade.

Rather than allow the addition of a fifth site (by keeping Hollygrove and adding Wilshire), LAUSD made a one-time accommodation to allow Hollygrove’s third- and fourth-grade students to move into Selma’s empty space for the 2023 / 2024 school year. The other Hollygrove students have moved to Wilshire.

Two-campus split
When asked about her thoughts regarding the split of the elementary school’s students into two campuses, Held said, “Hollygrove has such a strong team, community and culture that I’m confident it will be vibrant across both sites.” Held knows that it will be a challenge to operate on multiple sites but said, “The flip side is that each community will be a little smaller, providing an even cozier sense of campus community.”

There has been much concern from LCS parents regarding the continuous and/or repeated presence of street-dweller encampments around the perimeter of the Selma campus. It already was a concern for the middle school students, and now, with 9- and 10-year-olds joining that campus population, the concern has grown even stronger. “Both parent leaders and school staff are in constant communication with the City Council office and LAPD,” said Held. “We are reaching out through every avenue we can, repeatedly, to improve this situation and we have been since late spring,” she continued. A recent cleanup as part of the City of Los Angeles’ Inside Safe program cleared the area. Held plans for LCS to continue its outreach to the city and beyond to keep the perimeter clear of people and property impeding passage on the adjacent sidewalks and streets.

Hollygrove @ Selma
Fortunately for the new students at Selma, the public school was built originally as an elementary campus. It has a play structure, some shaded outdoor space and spacious classrooms. Though there is little green space, LCS organized beautification days and work parties over the summer. Parents helped make the space more, as Held put it, “Hollygrove-ish.” The executive director told us that the new Wilshire campus also looks great. It was given a makeover with new paint, flooring and lots of upgrades. It also received a new climbing area and similar facilities for young kids.

When asked how long she thinks the school’s current two-campus configuration will last, Held told us that the goal is to bring the former Hollygrove elementary students back together as soon as possible, which requires more space than is available at the Wilshire (formerly Hankook Academy) site. “We’re in the process of planning for that with the relevant experts,” she said. Held informed us that the adjoining property at 4950 Wilshire Blvd. has been looked at, but that it is not likely a feasible option because the property is priced too high and does not appear to be zoned for school use.

We are told that the LCS community has been flexible, open and creative during this process. “They’ve jumped in to help facilitate the moves, beautify both spaces and support each other through this transition,” said Held.

Larchmont Charter’s elementary program was recognized as one of 2023’s 350 California Distinguished Schools by the California Department of Education.

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