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Modernization upgrades learning

Posted March 17. 2006

Yelena Ovcharenko
Web Editor

Education has been an issue in Los Angeles for decades. Limiting overcrowded classrooms, providing textbooks and employing permanent teachers for all schools have been long-time goals for the Los Angeles Board of Education.

Last week the board approved plans for a $208-million performing and visual arts high school in downtown L.A. The elaborately designed school with seven major buildings will fit about 2,000 students. This includes a large theater, rehearsal rooms and art studios.

This modern, high-tech school will provide cutting-edge learning equipment in a clean safe environment.

However, the price of this dream will cost two times more than an average high school.

This school will bring L.A. on the level of New York City's LaGuardia High School.

The demand to meet the needs of schools comes at one of the most crucial times, since California is one of the lowest rating states in the “No Child Left Behind” national reading tests.

The lack of resources usually hinders a school’s progress; however, there are exceptions.

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s newest school, the South L.A. Area High School opened in June and gave 2,900 students the opportunity to learn in a new environment with state-of-the-art facilities. It had five mini campuses comprising the school.

However, during the first week of school, gunshots were fired in front of the school and a student was arrested for bringing an AK-47. The school is No. 1 among district high schools for crime and has had 218 reports filed to the police since it opened.

Originally, when it opened the school’s goal was to relieve overcrowding and to boost student achievement. It was designed to be an exemplary school, not a failure.

The explanation for this ironic outcome is that an attempt to change a school’s and community’s culture is a slow and painful process.

One of the causes of this school’s problems is that attendance boundaries include the toughest neighborhoods near Jefferson and Belmont. There are 18 documented gangs on this campus, and students feel the necessity to carry weapons for protection when going to school.
What occurs in the community spills into schools.

Despite these setbacks, L.A. is not turning its back on this school and is gradually taking the steps to make it a safe, efficient high school.
One of the principals began by handing his cell phone number out to students to provide as sense of security on and around the campus. In addition, police officers patrol the campus regularly.

The students that really want to learn keep their distance during fights and riots. Instead, they try to take advantage of permanent teachers, clean facilities and new equipment.

Los Angeles is taking steps to building better schools and safe learning environments, but at times it seems that the city has too much on its plate. There are still schools that are overcrowded and lack resources for textbooks and classroom equipment.

Eventually, the proposed art school will be a success from the start and will serve as a model for other schools. All that we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best as we gradually improve the learning environments in some of L.A.’s worst areas.

Yelena Ovcharenko, a junior journalism major, is Web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at yovcharenko@ulv.edu.