David Mendez

District partners with Friendship Foundation

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The former Franklin Elementary School, now the Beach Cities Child Development Center, will be the home of a partnership with the Friendship Foundation, serving special-needs students. Photo by David Mendez

Franklin Park to become Special Needs transition program hub

by David Mendez

The Redondo Beach Unified School District will be partnering with the Friendship Foundation to transform the district’s defunct Franklin Elementary School from a preschool to partner on education programs for special-needs students, even beyond the district’s existing post-12th-grade Transition Program.

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The Friendship Foundation offers programs to special needs children and young adults, ages 5 to 35, exercise, arts, and social programs.

“It’s always important to give anyone the most tools they can use to succeed,” said RBUSD Board of Education member Brad Serkin. “Having this as an extension of us gives more opportunities for kids who need an extra leg up.”

The past two meetings of the RBUSD Board of Education have seen the execution of two agreements partnering with the Friendship Foundation. On March 23, the District approved a shared-use and services agreement, agreeing to pay Friendship for teaching special-needs students ages 18 to 22 with a Transitional Program; for 16 students, which Serkin estimated as the average during a given year, the district would pay about $339,000 per year.

On May 25, the District approved a 66-year lease agreement, in which Friendship will pay $125,000 per year to lease the site during its initial five-year period. The annual base rent increases as the years go on, topping out at $425,000 in year 40, not including annual adjustments. Friendship will start paying rent in about two years, after necessary construction changes have been made to the site.

The agreement also outlines joint-use of the facility, allowing Friendship to operate its own programs outside of its partnership with RBUSD.

“It will give students an opportunity to not necessarily ‘age out,’ which is what we work with now,” said Assistant Superintendent Janet Redella. “This will give students an opportunity to continue on in both social and possibly even occupational efforts beyond the age of 22.”

What has not yet been finalized is a use agreement between the City of Redondo Beach and the School District regarding the use of Franklin Park. Currently, the two operate under a joint use agreement; the city leases and operates Franklin Park, built on the former Franklin School playground.

The District is targeting continued joint use of the park for its students and participants of Friendship’s programs — essentially, as Serkin said, “when we need a permit and when we don’t.”

It’s not expected that the Franklin site, which is currently the home of the Beach Cities Child Development Center, will see a major change or uptick in activity, Serkin said. The District is anticipating fewer than 50 people on the site at any given time.

“We think this is important for our district, for our kids and for the community. These are kids that you see in the community, at our local businesses,” Serkin said. “Helping them have a sense of purpose and a set of abilities to do things, to learn job skills — we as a district are happy to provide that.”

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