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Former Miramonte Elementary teachers return as school opens for the new year

Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.
Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.
Grant Slater/KPCC

Tuesday is the first day of school for more than 670,000 students enrolled in Los Angeles Unified, and the district is celebrating the grand opening of 20 brand new schools.

In honor of that, Superintendent John Deasy, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other “special guests” will hold a 10 a.m. news conference at the Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy.

The superintendent and other board members are also planning visits to at least 12 other new and existing schools throughout the day.

A district official said Deasy will likely make a stop at Miramonte Elementary School where two teachers were arrested in separate cases over claims of lewd conduct back in February.

Miramonte’s newly appointed school principal, Marta Contreras, said it’s likely to be an emotional morning at the South L.A. school with 45 of 76 of its previous teachers back in the classrooms.

Shortly after news of the alleged abuse broke six months ago, the entire staff was removed from Miramonte — everyone from teachers to secretaries to custodians.

They were exiled to Augustus F. Hawkins High School, which still hadn’t opened. For roughly three months, about 125 staffers were barred from student contact while they waited to be cleared by investigators.

Though few spoke out publicly about their time out of the classroom, Andrea Shaffer, a sixth grade teacher who was relocated, said they were “caught in the crossfire.” With their return, Contreras said they can “continue community healing.”

About 10 other teachers from Miramonte’s former staff have been reassigned to Lawrence Moore Elementary School, one of the district's new schools built to relieve overcrowding in the area.

That will drop Miramonte’s student enrollment from about 1,400 to just over 1,000. Still a lot of students, Contreras said, but definitely more manageable.

The reduction means the elementary school will finally transition from a year-round calendar to a traditional school year.