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HEAD START DECISION DELAYED; DISTRICT WILL KEEP PAYING RENT ON FORMER DRUGSTORE.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Daily News Staff Writer

The Palmdale School District will make another $23,592 rent payment on an empty drugstore it wants to convert to a child development center after the board postponed for a month its decision on whether to go ahead with the project.

Trustees said they wanted more information on the center's 1,500-square-foot outdoor play area that would be too small to accommodate all students at one time.

``The size of the play yard is a concern because it's not large enough to accommodate as many students as I would like for it to accommodate,'' said trustee Helen Acosta.

The plan to establish Head Start preschool and special education classes in the former Payless store at 47th Street East and Avenue S has been blocked by a judge, who cited a faulty environmental process and ordered the district to set aside its approval of the lease.

The district has continued paying for the lease while the board decides whether to request another environmental review, appeal the judge's ruling or abandon the project.

The board at a closed-session meeting Tuesday decided to seek more information on the project before making a decision at its Jan. 19 meeting, officials said.

Head Start regulations for play areas require 75 square feet for each student, said Superintendent Nancy Smith. The district has received waivers from that requirement at three other Head Start sites by having a rotating schedule where one or two classes are out in the play area at a time, Smith said.

The three other sites are at Joshua School in Lancaster, and two churches, one in Palmdale and one in Lancaster.

Trustee Sheldon Epstein noted, however, that the other sites have existing playground space that the Head Start children can use or share.

``It's not certain a waiver could be granted on a rotational basis at the Payless site,'' Epstein said.

``I think they would like to see if there is some way to not have to apply for a waiver,'' Smith said.

She said district officials will look to see whether the area can be enlarged or whether an indoor-outdoor combination area can be developed.

The Palmdale School District has spent more than $150,700 on the embattled project. Blocked by the court order, the district has spent $70,776 in lease payments for three months and between $25,000 to $30,000 in legal fees in fighting a court challenge by Albertson's grocery store and two property owners.

The district is leasing the store from Santa Barbara-based developer Richard McClean for $23,592 a month for 15 years. McClean has spent $2.5 million buying and remodeling the store's interior.

The district also had to pay $55,000 for construction changes required by the city and Fire Department, which included installing doors and changing doors into fire walls.

Critics of the project have argued that the district could have bought and developed the property for less money than what it is paying for the lease, but the district disputes that accusation.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 18, 1998
Words:508
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