Requirements for Renting to a Charter School

First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
Rick Hoyt-McDaniels
Requirements for Renting to a Charter School
August 27, 2017

I.  Background

The Stay in Place committee has been exploring the idea of renting space in our church to a charter school with the hopes that the rent earned could be a significant part of a solution to closing our annual deficit.

Sean Gabe made initial contact with a representative from Metro Charter School, DeJuan Ruffin. I met with him and we toured the building along with Sean Gabe and several church members. In addition, I read several articles and researched online resources concerning facilities requirements for charter schools. I also communicated with two additional persons with expertise in charter school site requirements and toured our building with one of them.

II.  Conclusion

Renting to a large charter school is impossible. Even renting to a small school is probably not possible and would be of little or no benefit to solving our financial need while greatly hampering our ability to fulfill our mission as a church.

  • Licensing our site for a charter school would require overcoming significant physical challenges and would require months of work with the City.
  • Our maximum enrollment would be far below the minimum number that would allow a charter school to use our church as a permanent site. This would require us to find a new school tenant every few years. This does not fulfill our need for sustainable income.
  • The loss of existing income for parties and other tenants means this idea would produce very little income above what we already earn.
  • Accommodating the school would put extra burdens on our physical facility and additional demands on our staff, making this idea unsustainable.
  • Using this much of our space as a school site puts burdens on our members, limits church use, and changes the character of the building. This fails to affirm our need for a clear UU church identity and mission.

“This looks like a fantastic church but an unlikely property for a charter school.” Rick Bobertz, realtor, email of August 18, 2017.

III. Findings

Here are several issues I identified concerning our building’s potential as a charter school site.

Numbers in parenthesis refer to resources cited at the end of this document.

Permits

  • We would need to obtain an E-1 Occupancy permit (10). We may also need a “conditional use permit” (4).
  • “City Planning can take upwards of nine months to process project entitlements” (5). Making required alterations to our building and obtaining necessary permits is “a process that can be fraught with delays” (6).

Fire Safety

  • K-2 students may not use basement spaces and may only use second floor spaces if they have a dedicated exit stairway (7)(4)(2)(6)(1)(10).   We cannot reserve a stairway for school use without eliminating other second and third floor tenants.
  • K-2 students may not use 3rd floor (1). Older students can use a third floor but would require an elevator (10).
  • Second floor spaces require fire sprinklers (1)(4)(7)(10). We do not have sprinklers anywhere in our building.
  • “You are required to have an area of refuge large enough for the students to assemble on the property that is 75 feet from any structure” (10). Our courtyard is not a usable space for this purpose (11).

Bathrooms

  • The boys’ bathroom on the groundfloor is only accessible by walking through the Severance Room. If we were using the Severance Room as a classroom, the constant interruptions would not be acceptable to teachers.
  • We have only one public bathroom on the second floor. A single unisex bathroom would not likely be acceptable to State licensing. Nor would the school allow us to share this bathroom with other tenants.

Drinking Fountains

  • “There shall be a minimum of one drinking fountain per occupied floor in schools, theaters, auditoriums, dormitories, offices, or public buildings” (8) and (10). We have no drinking fountain on our second floor.

Outdoor Play Space

  • Schools require “5 to 6 square feet per student” of recreational space (9)(6)(4).
  • DeJuan Ruffin suggested we could use our basement gym as a recreation space (1) but his follow-up email agreed with several other sources that K-2 children are not allowed to use basement spaces (7)(6)(2).
  • Some schools find nearby offsite recreation space. However, we have no nearby recreation space, and transporting children to and from would be a significant challenge (5)(4).
  • Using our courtyard as a play space would require securing the site for children’s use: fencing off plants, covering the fountain, removing benches. When we did this for the YMCA preschool it significantly changed the character of our courtyard. For older kids this would mean a play space with no climbing structures, no room to run, and no open space for games and sports. “Outdoor areas sufficient and appropriate for play areas are also essential” (10).

Drop-Off Area

  • Schools require a street drop-off area (6)(4).
  • We have a designated loading zone in front of the church but it’s not certain that this would satisfy “specific street conditions” (6) that “will not have a large negative impact on traffic” (4).

Minimum Space per Student and Maximum Enrollment

  • The references I found disagree on this specific requirement: 60 square foot per student (1). “about 75 sq. ft. of building space per student” (4). “Typically, charter schools need 50 to 70 square feet of space per student with elementary schools being on the lower end of this range.” (9)
  • However, the references are clear about minimum classroom size: “Classrooms: 700 to 1,000 square feet” (9)(4). We have only 3 rooms on the ground and second floor that are larger than 700 square feet: Channing – 2412, Severance – 1026, and Starr King – 950. However, Starr King is probably not usable due to lack of fire sprinklers, lack of dedicated staircase, lack of separate boys and girls’ bathrooms, lack of drinking fountain. Channing could be divided into two classrooms.
  • Therefore, we have about 3,438 square feet of available classroom space available in three classrooms (2 in Channing and 1 in Severance).
  • At 50 square feet per student (the smallest number I found cited) 3,438 square feet could accommodate 69 students in 3 classrooms.
  • Charter schools become economically viable at about 300 students (3). Schools with smaller enrollments are therefore looking for temporary space with plans to move out when they grow.

Furniture

  • If we share our space then we have to move furniture every Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Either we hire movers or we ask the school to hire movers. Either solution is an extra expense that would lower our income.
  • Teachers do not like to have their classrooms disrupted. When we shared our space with the YMCA preschool for five years we received constant complaints about the classrooms not being set-up on Monday exactly the way the teachers left them on Friday.
  • Moving furniture creates excessive wear and tear on our floors.
  • We have no convenient place to store furniture. With the YMCA we stored furniture in the Severance Room, which meant we lost use of that room entirely.

Loss of Existing Rental Income

  • We already rent Channing and Severance for parties, for the Young Musicians Foundations, for Zumba classes, for Al-Anon meetings, for community meetings, not to mention for our worship and church meetings. All of these groups would have to be moved, or canceled. We would lose existing rental income. Party rentals would only be possible on Saturdays.
  • Or, if we decided to not move furniture and give the schools the space permanently we would lose all party rentals in Channing.
  • Second and third floor tenants would be inconvenienced, at least, or required to move out. We learned through our experience with the YMCA preschool that state requirements forbid non-school adults from being on school grounds. There is no access to our second and third floor that does not require intruding on the ground floor school grounds. We had difficulty renting those spaces because of this hassle.

IV. References:

Experts Contacted

  • DeJuan Ruffin, Director of Operations, Metro Charter School. In person conversation, August 4 and email August 9.
  • Rick Bobertz, a realtor referred to me through a contact Jim Hoyt-McDaniels had with Dean Moralla-Turner, the Principal of a charter school in South LA. Phone conversation August 16 and email August 18.
  • Louise Manuel, Facilities Development Specialist with ExEd (Execellent Education through charter schools). Louise was referred to me by First Church member Sumita Soni, who teaches at a charter school. In person conversation, August 24.

Articles

  • “Metro Charter Likely to Split Into Two Campuses This Fall”, By Eddie Kim, DTLA News, Apr 7, 2017
  • “Downtown’s Metro Charter School Lacks Space for Three Grades” by Eddie Kim, DTLA News, August 14, 2017
  • “Parents at Pasadena charter school left scrambling after campus closes” by Stephen Ceasar, LA Times, September 7, 2014
  • “Facilities Tips for Charter Schools in Los Angeles” compiled by ExEd, 2015

Online Resources

  • “California Department of Education K-12 Toilet Requirement Summary” http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/fa/sf/toiletrequire.asp
  • Charter School Facilities Requirements: A Guide for Developers, Brokers and Landlords” November 2007 http://www.liifund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Charter-School-Facilities-Requirements-RTC-2008.pdf
  • Charter School Facilities. http://www.charterschooltools.org/tools/FindingAFacility.pdf

V.  Citations included in this report

  1. DeJuan Ruffin, in person conversation, August 4
  2. DeJuan Ruffin, email, August 9
  3. Rick Bobertz, phone conversation, August 16
  4. Rick Bobertz, email, August 18.
  5. “Metro Charter Likely to Split Into Two Campuses This Fall”, By Eddie Kim, DTLA News, Apr 7, 2017
  6. “Downtown’s Metro Charter School Lacks Space for Three Grades” by Eddie Kim, DTLA News, August 14, 2017
  7. “Parents at Pasadena charter school left scrambling after campus closes” by Stephen Ceasar, LA Times, September 7, 2014
  8. “California Department of Education K-12 Toilet Requirement Summary” http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/fa/sf/toiletrequire.asp
  9. Charter School Facilities Requirements: A Guide for Developers, Brokers and Landlords” November 2007 http://www.liifund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Charter-School-Facilities-Requirements-RTC-2008.pdf
  10. “Facilities Tips for Charter Schools in Los Angeles” compiled by ExEd, 2015
  11. In person conversation with Louise Mandel, August 24