South LA School Demolishes Motel, Celebrates a Safer Space

People taking a group photo in front of a event poster

By: Ashley Mackey, ABC7

On December 5, 2022, ABC7 reporter Ashley Mackey connected with students, families and school officials as they celebrated the demolition of the Palms Motel that sat between KIPP Empower Academy (grades TK-4) and KIPP Academy of Opportunity (grades 5-8).

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Teachers, faculty and parents of KIPP SoCal Public Schools are celebrating having a safe space in South Los Angeles for their students to go to now that a motel that sat between the elementary and middle school is gone.

"Having the women walking past the school when you're bringing your sons and daughters out and they don't have on any clothes and just no regard for the children period," said Carolyn Johnson, one of the parents. "So, I'm happy to see it minimized or gone completely."

Parents, students and teachers said the Palms Motel fostered crime such as sex trafficking, prostitution and shootings that would cause frequent school lockdowns.

KIPP Academy of Opportunity scholar Kristina Randolph being interviewed by ABC

"It felt like there was danger all around. KIPP Empower and Opportunity, because there was people and there were situations always happening with the police," said Kristina Randolph, a fifth grader of KIPP Academy of Opportunity. "It felt dangerous."

After years of negotiating, protesting at city hall and gathering community awareness, KIPP SoCal Public Schools bought the Palms Motel and demolished it.

"It's bringing more positivity to the environment," said Zeleana Jenkins, a sixth-grade teacher for KIPP Academy of Opportunity. "They can see that change can happen if we actually put our minds and our hearts and we come together to do something."

KIPP Academy of Opportunity educator Zelena Jankins being interviewed by ABC

"I feel more comfortable because I know now my kids can walk safer," said Claudia Murillo, another parent.

It's still in the planning phase, but school officials said they want the space to serve both students as well as community members, which is why they're considering building something like a gymnasium, a green space or more classrooms.

This story originally aired and was published on ABC7.

About the Author
Ashley Mackey is a community journalist for ABC7 Eyewitness News. She joined the team in August 2019 after reporting and anchoring in Phoenix, Arizona, for Cronkite News on Arizona PBS. She earned her master's degree in sports journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and her bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Montana.