The Los Angeles Unified School District would build its first new regular high school in the San Fernando Valley in nearly 30 years on the Cal State Northridge campus, under a plan announced today to explore creating a specialized, small "academy school for local students headed for college and careers.
District officials said they will recommend an undeveloped site on the east side of the CSUN campus for the proposed school, which would serve about 800 ninth through twelfth graders with a special emphasis on teaching careers. To obtain that site, the LAUSD would deed to CSUN the district's former Prairie Street school site located nearby.
The project, known officially as Valley New Senior High School No. 1, would be unique in several ways. As the only LAUSD high school to be located on a university campus, the proposal would give the school and its students access to CSUN university facilities such as the campus library as well as science and language labs.
"A teacher training academy has been my vision since I was first elected 13 years ago," said LAUSD board member Julie Korenstein, who represents the central valley and parts of the east and west valley areas. "The opportunity to build an educational partnership with CSUN and create a unique campus to encourage students to dedicate their lives to teaching is a milestone. The new campus will help relieve the overcrowding of our schools and serve as an example of creative school partnerships."
The district developed the proposal in consultation with officials at Cal State Northridge. District officials plan to seek approval from the Board of Education's Facilities Committee on Thursday, May 25, to begin formal study of the project. Ultimately, the project also would require approvals from the Board of Trustees of the California State University system, the state Legislature and the LAUSD's full Board of Education.
CSUN Interim President Louanne Kennedy called the school proposal an important and exciting opportunity for the university. "An important part of our university mandate is to help improve K-12 education and forge strategic partnerships. This project will benefit the community as a whole and put more deserving students on track toward college education," Kennedy said.
Having a small high school on the Cal State Northridge campus would bring university and secondary educators closer together in efforts to improve educational quality, both for the academy's students and CSUN's own large teacher training program. CSUN already educates more candidates for teacher credentials than any other public university in the state.
As a special LAUSD "academy" school, the new high school would have a major, broad focus on preparing students for teaching careers. But the school would also offer academic tracks in areas such as media and performing arts, health and human services and modern languages, in coordination with CSUN. The school would be the LAUSD's only stand-alone academy school in the San Fernando Valley.
The LAUSD is proposing to build various new schools throughout Los Angeles to accommodate surging enrollments. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, completed in 1971, was the last new comprehensive high school opened by the school district.
Students for the proposed new high school would come from the attendance zones of Monroe High School in North Hills and Granada Hills High School, both located near the university. Monroe, for example, has more than 4,000 students and is expected to increase its enrollment in the years ahead.
As planned, the new academy school would be built on a CSUN parcel known as Zelzah Court, located along the west side of Zelzah Avenue north of Halsted Street. The school complex would be a low-rise development with 32 classrooms and about 800 students at any one time.
Based on discussions with university officials, the school's campus would be fenced to enhance security and would include 250 to 350 on-site parking spaces to accommodate both school staff and students with cars. The project would be funded out of district and state school bond revenues.
If granted permission by the district's Facilities Committee later this month and then the full Board of Education in June, district officials would commence a one-to-two year process of comprehensive environmental review and analysis, including consultation with local community groups and members.
District and CSUN officials said the property exchange would be a good deal for both sides. For the LAUSD, the Zelzah Court site would include access to various university facilities, including adjoining CSUN athletic fields. That would eliminate the LAUSD's need to acquire significant additional acreage normally required for a new high school.
CSUN would gain full use of the former Prairie Street school site located about a half mile south, also along Zelzah Avenue. The university already is leasing part of the site from the LAUSD for campus parking, and with control of the full site would gain hundreds of much-needed parking spaces in a busy, expanding area of the campus.
The notion of a cooperative venture arose recently when district officials approached the university to discuss plans for developing a traditional high school on the Prairie Street site. CSUN had long expressed interest in acquiring the site, home to an LAUSD elementary school that was closed in 1984, as a way of rounding out the campus core.
If approved by the LAUSD and the other parties, the smaller academy high school on Zelzah Court could begin construction as early as spring 2002 and open by summer 2003.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News