Published Online: April 23, 1997

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School handoff

Some youngsters might not mind going to class in a building decked out for a pro football team. But officials of the 2,600-student El Segundo district in California think it's no way to run a school.

The Oakland Raiders leased El Segundo Junior High School from the suburban Los Angeles district in 1982 and have used it since then for a training facility.

Back then, the system's enrollment was down to about 1,900 students. But now that enrollment is again on the rise, and the nfl team has moved back to Oakland after a stint as the Los Angeles Raiders, both parties agree that it's time for the school system to take back the building.

What they haven't yet agreed on, however, is who's going to pay the estimated $1 million needed to convert the building back into a junior high school. The Raiders added extra lockers, whirlpools, and stairwells, along with a dose of black and silver trim to match the team's colors.

"We don't want to incur the cost of redoing those stairs and taking out all those showers," said Superintendent Bill Manahan.

Until now, he said, the deal has been a good one. The team paid about $200,000 a year for a building the district didn't need. And the location was an ideal one for the Raiders when the team was in Los Angeles. It has ample land for a practice field, is only a short walk from the beach, and is close to the city's airport.

"They've been good tenants; we don't have any complaints about that," Mr. Manahan said. "They've paid a little over $2 million to this school district, which the schools obviously appreciate."

The problem, he added, is that although the district needs the building back, it can't afford to make all the renovations. Even if the building is returned to its former condition, Mr. Manahan said, it will still need plenty of improvements to meet 1997 standards.

The team's current lease doesn't expire until August 1998, but the district would like to reclaim the school and have it fixed up sooner than that.

Raiders officials said they were willing to consider moving out early, but would not comment on negotiations dealing with the renovations.

"We have every intention of paying rent for the remainder of the term,'' said Amy Trask, an attorney for the team. But, she added, "we have an honest difference of opinion in interpreting what's in the lease.''

--JEFF ARCHER

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