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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Up for grabs: your neighborhood school

Back-to-school sales are in full swing. But why settle for some new clothes and notebooks for your kids when you can shop for an entire campus? The Los Angeles school board earlier this week voted to allow charter schools and other groups to operate about 250 campuses as the part of the most recent effort to reform the Los Angeles Unified School District. But what schools are available? In response to a request by The Eastsider, the LAUSD provided a list of schools that are on the table.

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The most valuable properties on the list are the approximately 50 new and soon-to-open schools (this list includes only about 30 schools scheduled to open in 2010).

Smart shoppers looking for a diamond-in-the-rough might want to take a closer look at the more than 200 existing LAUSD campuses. The schools are ranked as among the lowest performing in the district based on rankings tied to the No Child Left Behind law and include many properties on the Eastside, including Belvedere Middle School in East Los Angeles; Eagle Rock High in Eagle Rock; and Logan Elementary (pictured) in Echo Park. Let the shopping begin.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Will raising plants raise test scores at Mt. Washington Elementary?

Mt. Washington Elementary School will soon be able to take advantage of a new learning tool: a vegetable garden. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps. recently built a row of raised planter boxes on the campus a few weeks after the Mt. Washington PTA Garden Committee received a $1,200 grant to fund its Edible Garden Project. The garden committee members say the process of planting, tending and harvesting food - or flowers - can complement classroom learning on topics ranging from math and science to nutrition:

"School garden programs, like the one being initiated here, have been proven to improve test scores in the sciences. For example, third, fourth and fifth grade students who participated in a school garden program scored significantly higher on science achievement tests than students who did not participate in a school garden program ... A garden project helps children learn to take responsibility for their environment and can help them develop a strong sense of community toward a sustainable future. Perhaps most importantly, the excitement of nurturing a seed, watching it grow and harvesting its produce will have a huge impact on our kids’ desire to eat healthful foods."

The PTA group plans on building more raised planting beds as well as native gardens at the school.

Related stories:
* Big blue barrier comes between a Mt. Washington parent and a neighborhood school. The Eastsider

Photo by Sara Fairchild

Monday, August 10, 2009

Middle school students get a boost with free home computers

A group dedicated to improving middle school performance provided free home computers to 250 low-income families with sixth grade students at El Sereno Middle School, according to the Parent Press newsletter. The equipment, software and training for students as well as their parents were provided through Computers for Youth, which is seeking to improve middle school student performance by improving their educational resources at home. El Sereno Middle School was selected after being evaluated for need and parental interest, Emily Simas, California director for Computers for Youth, told the Parent Press:

“The school and its parents must share the vision that sixth grade is an important time for children and parents to work together and be willing to attend workshops to learn how to best use the technology for student learning. That was El Sereno.”

More free computers - or "Home Learning Centers," as they are called under the program - are on the way. Computers for Youth will provide El Sereno sixth graders with computers over a three-year program.

Photo from the Parents Press

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Los Angeles schools are closed for the summer - but the cafeteria might still be open

Many Los Angeles school district campuses have continued to dish out free breakfast and lunches to students this summer even though budget cuts forced the district to cancel most classes. The Summer Food Services Program was "created to ensure that children in lower-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations, when they do not have access to school breakfast or lunch," according to the district web site.

The meals are being served at schools like Toland Elementary in Eagle Rock, Rowan Elementary in East Los Angeles and Mayberry Street elementary on the border of Echo Park and Silver Lake, according to a list of sites in the Summer Food Services Program.

Anyone under age 18 can get a meal. The program will continue through mid August but may run longer at selected schools.

Photo from bookgrl via Flickr

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not so fast: Union might challenge mayoral takeover of new Boyle Heights school

The Los Angeles school district spent more than $100 million to build the new Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center on First Street in Boyle Heights. But when the campus opens for the fall semester, the LAUSD will not be charge. Instead, the shiny new school and its approximately 1,000 students will fall under the domain of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools in a move that surprised and angered the powerful teachers union, reports the LA Times. The transfer was apparently approved by Supt. C. Ramon Cortines and school board president Monica Garcia. But the full school board did not take up the issue, and the shift in control also took place without the endorsement of parents and the teachers' union as called for under an agreement between the union and the mayor.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles may challenge the takeover in the most recent example of the deteriorating relationship between the union and the mayor, notes the Times:

"The dispute over the new school coincides with a deterioration of the relationship between the mayor's office and United Teachers Los Angeles, for which Villaraigosa once worked as an organizer.

The mayor recently called the union "dysfunctional" in a television interview. He also was displeased that the union and the school district couldn't agree on union concessions that would have avoided teacher layoffs. Villaraigosa's schools were especially hard hit because they employ more new teachers who lack seniority protections."