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School fights to rebuild auditorium

September 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A fire gutted Garfield High School's auditorium more than two years ago, but still students are not able to use the it, because of a heated battle between the Los Angeles Unified School District and insurance companies.What was once the focal point of Garfield High School is now a burned out shell. The roof is gone and inside, weeds grow though the concrete floor.

"The walls are still there braced by high beams and angle irons, and nothing has happened," says Michael Summe, the school's principal.

The auditorium was destroyed by an arson fire two and half years ago. And since then, the school district and insurance companies have been fighting over what needs to be done to rebuild it.

"We have to hold firm on our standards, and we're not going to be able to build something unless it can meet all o the current codes," says Mike Hovatter of the L.A. Unified School District.

We have to make sure that the insurance company lives up to our commitment to us and fulfills their obligation," Hovatter adds.

L.A. Unified says that the walls are being shored up by steel beams and are not safe. They say consultants have told them everything needs to be knocked down.

"The insurance company, in an earlier indication, has told us that they believe that we can reuse the walls and that we're exempt from some of the codes we believe we're required to adhere to," Hovatter explains.

We called the attorney for the insurance companies and she told me they have no comment.

Garfield High School was the setting for the movie Stand and Deliver?

Recently there was a benefit concert by the band Los Lobos... and boxer Oscar De La Hoya gave money to rebuild? but still some dance classes are being held here in the auto shop?

The principal says an entire class of students is going to graduate never having used an auditorium.

"The plans for the replacement for the auditorium are beautiful, they're great, they're fabulous," says Summe, "but I'd like to see the auditorium completed, and I'd like to know essentially when that's going to happen and that it be done as quickly as possible."

"I didn't get to see anything in there, so it would have been cool to see plays or something in there," says student Aaron Sesma.

The two sided will try to resolve this using a mediator, for which a meeting has been scheduled for November. If they don't come to an agreement, the school district says it will have no choice but to sue the insurance companies.

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