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[KHTS] – Santa Clarita City Council members denied an appeal Tuesday by Einstein Academy to open another charter school location, amid concerns about the site and the school’s application process.

einstein-logoCouncil members voted 3-1 Tuesday, with one abstention from Mayor Laurene Weste, andCouncilwoman Marsha McLean voting in favor of Einstein’s appeal over a permit to open a charter school in an industrial park at 25300 Rye Canyon Road in Valencia.

Councilman Bob Kellar criticized the school’s officials for unpermitted construction work on the Valencia site, traffic concerns at the Pinecrest site and the way the district gained approvals from the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District, a move still being debated in court.

“To some degree, I would say, Albert Einstein, you’re not being a good neighbor,” Kellar said. “And I’m very concerned, based upon the track record, of what we can anticipate going into the future.”

The school is one of three operating in the area in and around the industrial park, including Valencia High School and a Montessori school, according to Einstein Academy officials, who said “political reasons” present no cause to deny the site.

“Every agency in California allows for the use of schools in an industrial park,” said David Armstrong, who presented the school’s appeal. “This is very clearly within the city’s (laws and ordinances).”

Weste said she couldn’t find grounds to deny the school based on its application and the recommendation by city staff, which called for City Council members to OK the site based on the school’s intention to continue to work with staff.

She didn’t explain her abstention from the dais Tuesday, but said any decision should be based on the criteria spelled out by the city’s applicable laws and ordinances.

Based on those prerequisites, she found no objection, she said.

After Kellar pointed out traffic concerns from residents near Einstein Academy’s Pinecrest site, McLean pointed out nearly every school pickup and dropoff location in the Santa Clarita Valley poses challenges at certain times.

She didn’t feel that was a good reason to deny a new school site.

“I believe that the staff report made the case that pick-up and and drop-off could be done safely — (school officials) were willing to put up fencing,” she said. “I thought it could have been accomplished by the conditions that would be (in the CUP).”

School officials agreed to hire a traffic monitor, to stagger pickup times and to substantially reduce the anticipated student population — from 650 students to 250 on-site, and 50 homeschooled — to accommodate traffic concerns.

However, she also acknowledged the concern of numerous members of the business community speaking at the meeting, who indicated during public comment they felt as though they’d been left out of the process.

“Maybe more could have been done to reach out to the surrounding businesses,” she added.

The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and members of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. felt putting a school in the industrial park could lessen the city’s ability to attract businesses in the industrial park.

Einstein Academy officials first sought an OK for the site in June 2013, after unpermitted construction began on the site, which was an issue addressed by Einstein.

Once school officials were made aware, the contractor was fired, Armstrong said, and he was brought in to manage the situation from there on out.

However, traffic and safety concerns prompted the Planning Commission to recommend the denial of a 650-student site inside the 53,000 square foot building on 25300 Rye Canyon Road back in March, prompting the appeal.

City staff worked with school officials on the changes to their plan, which garnered support from city staff.

The next step is for City Council to formally approve a resolution denying the appeal, which is expected to happen at the council’s first meeting in November.

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52 Comments

  1. Why did the Mayor abstain when she comments that there is no valid reason for the denial? Politics, politics, politics…shameful

  2. Very sad. Politics ruling children’s education. Forcing kids to be less educated. Great job.

  3. Nicole Cruz Nicole Cruz says:

    There’s a LOT more to the story than what people are hearing…

  4. Some of this is hilarious! A school would keep businesses from moving in?? Drive thru the center now and look at all the vacancies…who are they blaming for their current inability to fill those spaces? Sure sounds like decisions on a lot of issues in this city are based on the likes/dislikes of the city leaders/council and not on actual laws. The council needs to learn that they can’t always win and that the law must prevail even if it’s contrary to their likes or dislikes.

  5. Would they have this issue if they went to the industrial center in Castaic? Isn’t that out of the City’s reach?

  6. Shameful ..This is why I don’t like politics

  7. Steven Herskovitz says:

    Shame on the City council members who voted no. Is there some hidden agenda going on?

  8. I would like to invite council person Marsha to the Pine crest

  9. I would like to invite council person Marsha to the Pine Crest site some morning between 7:30 and 8:00 and again in the afternoon to see what’s going on. Check the area of Via Barra. It’s as nightmare. Also why did the mayor not vote. Isn’t she the leader of the community

  10. Invite Council person Marsha to 1/2 the schools in this valley. They are not much different.

  11. Good!!! No school should be in an industrial center. Why don’t they find a home where they are from, Acton/ Aqua Dulce?

  12. Interesting that they agreed to hire a traffic monitor, everyone time I talk to someone at the school they say the same thing. I live in the neighborhood, NEVER ONCE, Have I seen anyone at a crosswalk monitoring or helping student.,… I have however seen more than once kids barely missed getting hit by cars.

    • I saw a crossing guard there once but she didn’t actually help anyone cross the street. She stood on the corner chatting with a couple of the parents. Haven’t seen her since.

  13. Santa Clarita? Im sorry. I thought all our school districts turned Einstein down. Isn’t it Agua Dulce Unified?

  14. Ah man! Now I’m going to have to bus my kid out, thanks Santa Clarita!

  15. we need more school asap I don’t get it

  16. Eric Ryan Eric Ryan says:

    What is the big deal with them letting a charter school expand to a second location?
    Charter schools are better for kids who need a little more help anyway!!!!

  17. Perhaps AEA should build a school within the boundaries of its sponcered district. My daughter went to AEA and I was very concerned with the education she received. The local public schools have done a much better job. When she returned to the public high school she was behind due to AEA.

  18. Anna Lief Anna Lief says:

    I agree with Nicole Moynihan. I took both girls out of AEA and now they are both trying to stay afloat. Especially my little one who is behind in all subjects.

  19. Laurene abstained because she is a coward and doesn’t want her “brand” tainted by AEA. I was there and I assure you the packed house actually gasped when she raised all these issues, then she herself abstained. Coward, and it’s shameful… take a stand and own it.

  20. Ed De Rueda Ed De Rueda says:

    Too bad, charters are not an evil thing to happen when their primary concern is giving the kids an equitable education without the political strings ……………there are some things that government should back off from………….

  21. As a former planning commissioner (in another state), no way would any school be allowed to locate in a business or industrial center. Not only a non-conforming zoning issue, there is also a HUGE safety issue at the corner of Rye Cyn. & Ave. Scott. The road curves, you cannot tell what color the traffic light is because the trees block it, people are in a hurry to get to I-5 and continuously drive 10+ miles over the posted speed limit, and it is faster to get to I-5 if you plan to drive south, because Newhall Ranch takes you further north out of your way, and people continuously make illegal left turns out of the Gateway Center on Rye Cyn., and there are often trucks backing into driveways, and there are several bus stops. Oh, not to mention the golf carts (yes it is true, I drive it each day). So take all those factors and add school traffic? I have no issue with the school locating in a safe place in our city, but not there, where it is already dangerous. Two words…..Common Sense!

  22. Actually it’s not it’s just outside the industrial center. There are neighborhoods that surround it like a normal school.

  23. What I meant to say was, how close is the nearest residence to that location? I must be thinking of a different site… I’ll have to drive by and look.

  24. Robin Heinz says:

    I think it’s funny that people are focusing on the school rather than the building. That said, it’s also amusing how people say that charters are for kids who need extra help and that the education is substandard. If it’s not something you want, don’t send your kids there. If you do, great. There are very few bad educational options in this valley; however, wanting something different is not a bad thing. Some high-achieving kids also get lost in the system when there are 30-plus children in a classroom. As for calling the education at the high school substandard . . . I recommend looking at the list of colleges and universities to which AEA grads have been accepted. Of course, all of our local high schools produce students who go to great colleges — AEA is no exception. Some people are just never happy with any decision and find it necessary to blame an institution for their own failings. That is truly sad. All children have the potential to succeed in a variety of educational settings. What this comes down to is choice: If you don’t like it, don’t choose it. To say that children who leave AEA are behind academically BECAUSE of AEA is silly. Why are so many other children thriving, passing AP tests and getting into the colleges of their choice? Perhaps it’s a question of personal responsibility? It’s the same reason why some students from Valencia, West Ranch, Saugus, etc. do well academically and others do not.

  25. Sara Jones says:

    There are no residences near the site, it is completely surrounded by industrial manufacturing and aerospace companies. Rye Canyon Rd., is a truck route as well as a major artery for commuters in both the morning and evening. This is not a good location for an elementary school.

  26. Ken Pfalzgraf says:

    Interesting comments. Would like to hear from the people who left public school to attend AEA and then returned to public school, what prompted you to leave public school in the first place? How has this experience changed your look at public schools in general? The rest of you be nice.

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