Memorial at former Grover Cleveland Elementary School
  • Memorial at former Grover Cleveland Elementary School
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A representative from the company that wants to develop the former Grover Cleveland Elementary School site said on March 24 that there are no plans for the property, which is in escrow. However, the bid accepted by the San Diego Unified School District was based on constructing single-family homes, said Andy Gerber, director of development for City Ventures.

Gerber told San Carlos residents that there could be from 35 to 45 homes built on the 8.76-acre site located on the 6300 block of Lake Atlin Avenue. He also promised to "work to preserve" a memorial honoring two men fatally shot on the campus on January 29, 1979, by a 16-year-old girl who said her motive was that she didn't like Mondays.

The Cleveland student-body memorial honors principal Burton Wragg and building supervisor Mike Suchar, who died trying to protect children on the morning that that Brenda Spencer began firing a rifle at the school. Spencer, who lived across the street from the campus, killed the two men and injured eight students and a police officer, according to news reports. Spencer pled guilty and is eligible for parole in 2019.

Gerber said that although there are no specific plans for the memorial, efforts could include relocating it or "to possibly consider something else [another type of memorial]…to raise awareness."

Magnolia Science Academy

The district closed Cleveland in 1983 because of declining enrollment and then leased the site, most recently to Magnolia Science Academy. The charter school was established in 2005 for students in grades six through eight, according to the Magnolia Public Schools website.

District trustees voted February 24 to accept Quail Capital Investments' high bid of $6.1 million.

According to the agenda, the district followed state education code procedure of first offering the property to public agencies.

Magnolia submitted a letter of interest on June 19, 2014, but "negotiations did not result in a sale of the property," according to an agenda document. It also stated the district spent an average $115,749 on annual maintenance of the site, and Magnolia pays $61,728.12 annually to the district.

When I went to photograph the memorial on March 25, Magnolia dean of students Nellie Tate said the school "will be here for the next school year."

The night before, Gerber and Adam Smith, City Ventures director of land acquisition, met with residents living near the campus to answer questions and hear their concerns. That forum was scheduled because of short notice about a March 19 meeting, said Gerber. He said outreach would continue to a wider area and to organized groups. In addition, City Ventures will return to the community when plans are drawn up.

In response to residents' questions, Gerber said homes could have from three to five bedrooms and might be built on 5000-square-foot lots. A man received assurance that the company would try to design homes that look "like they fit in" the neighborhood. Gerber said he wants input from residents and referred them to City Ventures' website for information about designs and projects.

At both March meetings, residents asked about the memorial.

The memorial caught the attention of two Magnolia sixth-graders last year, according to a January 19, 2015, La Mesa Today post. Gobigal's piece described Madeline Garrett and Julianna Mullen's discovery of the memorial. After the girls observed a man lighting candles and praying, they researched online and learned the memorial's history. The girls cleaned up the memorial and re-landscaped surrounding land as a Girl Scout project.

Comments on the post included Becky Schonbrun's January 21 announcement about a petition to "keep the memorial…at the site of [Wragg and Suchar's] heroism."

The 185 petition signers included former Cleveland students who wrote about their experiences on that 1979 Monday.

There is also a memorial to the two men at the school district's Eugene Brucker Education Center.

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