Chamlian Armenian School

Morning traffic ebbs and flows as children arrive at Chamlian Armenian School for a day of learning on Wednesday, March 5, 2008. The school recently won approval to increase enrollment from 500 to 700 students. (File Photo / April 17, 2014)

Vahan & Anoush Chamlian Armenian School won approval from the Glendale Planning Commission to increase its current enrollment cap from 500 to 700 students, reversing an earlier city-mandated cap of 500.

The City Council created the cap in 2012 as a condition of its approval of a 9,345-square-foot gym, overturning the planning commission’s denial of the project amid concerns from neighbors about traffic.

About 20 people spoke during the hearing. As before, a main concern was traffic.

Don Fiske, a resident who lives on nearby Abella Street, said the increase could mean “major trouble” to the area.

Nearby resident Karen Keene Zimmerman, who sits on the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Town Council and lives about 500 feet from the campus, said Chamlian offers a “great quality education.”

“We have no exception with that,” she said, turning to Chamlian’s principal, Vazken Madenlian.

“But I do agree that I think you have outgrown this space,” she said.

But supporters for expanding enrollment — many of them parents — spoke to the value of the school’s nurturing environment and strong academic curriculum.

Madenlian said about 45 kids currently sit on the school’s wait list.

Aline Babaian, who had two children graduate from Chamlian, said that wait list is hard on parents and students.

“Families should not have to face that issue when it comes to sending a child to school,” she said.

Commissioner Chang Lee, following statements from neighbors about traffic accidents, asked Glendale police Lt. Scott Bickle whether the area sees an unusually high number of incidents.

“It’s really no different than any other school,” Bickle said, but added traffic on Lowell Avenue sometimes backs up nearly to Honolulu Avenue during the morning and evening pick-up and drop-off times.

Even so, he said the traffic plan that comes with increasing the school’s enrollment would help.

Under the plan, the school will bus many students to the La Crescenta campus from St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in central Glendale where a majority of the students reside.

The school will require new students to take the bus to campus or carpool with others.

The school also started a carpool program, Madenlian said, with 25 parents signing up. In exchange, he said, $50 was knocked off of those families’ tuition fees.

Commissioner Greg Astorian suggested that Madenlian consider boosting the carpooling incentive rate that will be available to all families.

“In my opinion, we need to be a little bit more generous. Think about it,” he told the principal. “But your minimum should be 50 [dollars] and no less than that.”

Fellow commissioner Erik Yesayan said the worries regarding traffic were legitimate, but felt the school was addressing those concerns.

“[T]here is a potential in actually decreasing the traffic there, which I think is a goal for all of us.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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