PHOTO BY BETTY LEE
By JENIBELLE HSU
The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District (HLPUSD) currently owns four surplus properties, including the Wedgeworth and La Subida properties, located near Wedgeworth Elementary School and Newton Middle School, respectively.
HLPUSD labels unnecessary or unused district lands as “surplus properties,” which can muster profit going towards HLPUSD’s Facility Master Plan of $1.2+ billion in district-wide improvements for school facilities and instruction.
The district publicly listed the La Subida property for sale on loopnet.com and closed biddings on July 17, 2017. Recently, the Board of Education interviewed two developers for the La Subida site but has not finalized any sales. The Wedgeworth site has not been listed for sale since its identification as a surplus property.
According to Associate Superintendent of Business Service Annie Bui, the profit earned from sales of surplus properties can direct more district funding to imminent matters, such as school improvement.
“Some of the schools [in the district], [such as] La Puente High School, are already 100 years old, but we do not have extra money to [enhance our] schools.” Bui said. “If we can do something to make sure that [students] have the best facility or the best instruction [possible], then we should do [it].”
Moreover, a fact sheet released by HLPUSD suggests that the highest Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for the district dropped by 13,218 students from 1970-1971 to 2015- 2016.
Nevertheless, Bui says that future housing developments on the sold sites may attract more students to the community.
“Lately, [K-12 public schools] in California have been declining in enrollment, [because] the housing is more expensive [here]. [However], if you build [a number of] houses [on a surplus property], then the families moving in may have students coming to the district,” Bui said.
However, inhabitants around the La Subida property voiced their opposition against the district’s plan to sell what is now a local park by facilitating a petition that earned more than 1,200 signatures. In addition, they have expressed their concern at monthly Hacienda Heights Improvement Association (HHIA) Board of Directors meetings.
HHIA president Mike Williams says that the County Supervisor of the 4th District Janice Hahn met with HLPUSD Superintendent Cynthia Perlan-Colfer and two anonymous Board of Education members “to explore alternative uses of the property.”
Amidst the controversy, Hahn remains optimistic for a negotiation between the community and the district.
“I am hopeful that by opening up dialogue, we can find a solution that ensures the school district has the funding it needs to provide for its students and that the community has access to open space,” Hahn said.