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LA Unified making plans to upgrade buildings most in need

Vanessa Romo | January 21, 2015

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Jefferson High LAUSD



LA Unified is getting close to fixing its schools most in need of repair.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines has developed a priority list for rehabilitating 11 campuses, once the Bond Oversight Committee, then the school board approve his plans.

In a memo to school board members last week, Cortines said he would present his plan to the bond committee on Feb 27, and with its blessing, put it before the board for a vote in March.

The modernization projects, part of the district’s School Upgrade Program, represents the next phase of the district’s bond program. The majority of the funding — approximately, $4.2 billion — would come from the district’s forthcoming Measure Q bond sale, with additional money from bonds that were previously sold.

“Despite the billions of dollars invested in building new school facilities and improving older school facilities, this district still has a facilities crisis,” Cortines explained in the memo. “Due to the size of the district, and the significant need for capital improvements, many aging and deteriorating school facilities were left unaddressed.”

Cortines has talked of embarking on the renovations projects, a mandate begun under his previous superintendency, since his return to the district in October. Over the last few months, he said, “I directed staff to move forward with identifying secondary school sites with the worst physical conditions; those that may pose a health and safety risk or negatively impact a school’s ability to deliver the instructional program and/or operate.”

Following those instructions district officials came up with this list of eight high schools, one middle school and a 4-through-12 magnet school campus that are first on his list:

  • North Hollywood HS
  • Huntington Park HS
  • Grant HS
  • Roosevelt HS
  • Polytechnic HS
  • Cleveland HS
  • Venice HS
  • San Pedro HS
  • Burroughs MS
  • Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies Magnet

Cortines also added Jefferson High School to the list. The south LA campus recently became the epicenter for the controversy around MiSiS when students were left without class assignments for weeks.

After more than a decade of overcrowding, during which time the school operated in a multitrack calendar, the nearly 100-year-old school needs repairs now, Cortines said. “Addressing the critical physical conditions at Jefferson High School now will help minimize the time and energy that the school site leadership team has to spend on failing facilities, enabling them instead to focus on impairing academics and educational opportunities,” he said.

Shannon Haber, spokeswoman for the district, told LA School Report the plans are “still in the most preliminary stages.”

“We need to go in and investigate what needs to happen on those sites and find out the specific needs of a site,” she said.

The modernization projects will address the most critical physical conditions at a school site, Amanda Vaughn, who is the Interim Program and Policy Development Advisor, told LA School Report.

Some may include:

  • Replacing broken and out-of-date building equipment – like air conditioning systems, roofs, and plumbing
  • Replacing portables with new permanent buildings
  • Upgrading earthquake safety and fires safety equipment
  • Build new classroom space to meet enrollment demands

Scott Folsom, a BOC member, says he fully supports Cortines’ plan and will vote to approve it at next month’s meeting.

“I’m enthusiastic that we’re finally starting to repair the old schools,” he said. “It’s what the voters wanted, have been wanting, for a long time now.”

He anticipates the district will start selling the Measure Q bonds by April.


* An earlier version of this story included outdated information about projects to be repaired.

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