Saturday, September 18, 2010

Building a Great School, or A Great School Building

Photo Credit: Monica Almeida, The New York Times
     This past Monday, September 13th, students first set foot in the Los Angeles Unified School District's newest school complex - a gargantuan 24-acre complex dedicated to the memory of Robert F. Kennedy.  If you haven't heard about it, as I hadn't until this week, the price tag on the construction was $578 million, roughly $140,000 per student.  Despite the fact that the money for the construction came from a $20 million bond passed by voters last year, the opening of the school comes at a time when LAUSD has a deficit of roughly $600 million, has just laid off over 2,000 teachers, and has shortened the school year by a full week.
     There are mixed reviews of course.  It seems outrageous to spend so much money on a building when the entire district is in debt, but for years students from the area were being bussed to schools several miles away and crowded onto campuses that had to run year round to accommodate the influx of students.  A new school needed to be built.  That much is plain.
     But why the preposterous cost?  The complex is designed as a monument to preserve the site where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.  It includes huge murals dedicated to his life, a reconstruction of the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub for the auditorium, and a faculty lounge that replicates the Ambassador Hotel's coffee shop.  Necessary?  Probably not.  Especially in light of the fact that the school district as a whole is known not to offer quality education to its students - why not put more money into hiring teachers and reducing classroom size? 
     The New York Times article has the best coverage I've found so far, and in it Adam Nagourney includes the voice of a parent:
Benjamin Austin, a member of the California Board of Education and head of Parent Revolution, an organization of school parents, said, “The best way to memorialize Robert Kennedy is to build a great school, not a great building.”

Here are links to the articles from the New York Times, the LA Times, and NBCLA.

1 comment:

  1. Buuuuttt, research has proven that pristine schools also tend to have better grades overall. Not that I care that much about the grade aspect, but in a city like L.A, just going to a school that's clean and secure makes the educational process easier for students. Without basic needs provided, the kids won't want to be there and learn anyway.

    With that said, faculty lounge like a coffee shop? Get that out of here... that's what classrooms are for.

    Keep up the good work, kid... I like your blog. Well-spoken/written.