Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Weighing In On Angel’s Gate as A High School; The Question We Should Really Be Asking Ourselves is Not Why…We Should Be Asking Why Not? A Prominent Educational Facility Could Be Built Here; It Just Needs Wings To Fly & the Residents to Tell the School District How to Do It
By Diana L. Chapman
I watched four high school students bravely get up and talk about the torturous learning environment they are currently living in at San Pedro High School.
Despite the hoards of resident’s complaints against the proposed building of a new high school at Angel’s Gate, the students stepped forward asking desperately for the 800 to 1,200 seat high school to proceed on the 28 acre site.
“Yes, we need to save the foxes and work on the noise pollution,” one 12th grade girl told the crowd in regards to their complaints. “But we really need more room. It’s like we are playing football everyday. It’s so crowded, it’s hard to get to class on time.”
Classes are so overbooked at their current school, the students said, some kids stand during the entire class or are crammed right up to the teacher’s desk. Going into the hallways is like heading onto the freeway at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to face a gushing onslaught of traffic. And education is spiraling downward because the teachers can’t teach in classrooms that are jammed like sardine cans with students.
This explains right away to me why we have a 50 percent dropout rate in Los Angeles Unified. The kids begged for help, but some of the residents failed to use their ears. One man told the students to climb aboard and join the real world. Los Angeles, he said, is overcrowded “so get use to it.” Residents clapped at that. It seems nowhere in San Pedro will our community accept the building of a desperately needed new high school. That must speak loudly to our kids about how our community feels toward them. The students who spoke at the Los Angeles Unified School meeting held at Dana Middle School March 13 won’t stand to gain anything; the school won’t be built until 2012. They are thinking about the future.
Perhaps we should too.
I would ask you now to take the time to pause, step out of your box and imagine the tremendous educational opportunities that could be at Angel’s Gate. For just a moment, stop worrying about the traffic, the den of foxes, the concern a high school would mar the tranquility of the site -- a location which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is constantly beaten by pulsating winds. Think instead for a moment at what a emarkable educational facility Angels’ Gate could become – which will only happen if residents force the issue.
Currently, Angel’s Gate hosts a plethora of underused possibilities – all of which should absolutely be integrated into the proposed high school’s regime. If a high school becomes the inner-hub of the area, think of the potential. Students could study marine biology at the Mammal Marine Care Center and help feed fish to the rescued sea lions. They can learn firsthand about World War II and what it meant to California at the Fort MacArthur Museum and visit the underground bunkers that still exist there today. They can learn from a slew of amazing artists at the Cultural Arts Center. Students can learn how to save birds and study the impact oil has when its washed into the sea at the International Bird Rescue Center.
Everyone of these facilities is located at the site.
In short, this could be one of the best, hands-on academic facilities in all of Los Angeles. An educator told me once that it was a shame we tried to do everything in a classroom; the real learning, he said, happens out in the field. Here is a place where all kinds of study and research could be adopted. Students also could volunteer at many of these remarkable resources and keep them alive and running for generations to come.
We can complain about the den of foxes at Angel’s Gate being in danger because of the construction and the marine mammals ears popping due to jackhammers and the traffic that could pour into the campus. These are critical issues that need to be addressed.
Yes, the district needs to protect the foxes and might have to build a preserve for them on the site, which would provide students with yet another educational opportunity.
The residents’ contend that vehicles should not be allowed to access the school using Alma Street -- an argument that should be adhered to due to the already existing number of accidents on the narrow residential street. The residents know them all. They've been counting.
Community members want more than the proposed 113 parking spaces. That too makes sense, because the neighbors don’t want – and should not have to deal with -- an overflow of cars parking on their streets.
Another man feared juvenile destruction that can sometimes accompany neighborhoods set near schools. The district needs to find away to provide the security the neighbors seek.
LAUSD School Board Member Richard Vladovic told the crowd that he would pull together a team of educators to design this school. I propose that he not just use educators, but include residents and community leaders who understand what Angel’s Gate can provide for students, but also buff down the severe impact a high school could have if its not built keeping the neighborhood in mind.
All I am asking right now is that residents think about it. Think about the potential and the much greater chance we – as a community will have – to churn out kids who will care about their environment, protect and rescue wildlife, understand the atrocities of World War II and the way it played out here in California and explore the arts with true artists working right next door.
Here, we will be molding well-rounded, future citizens. If we do not do this, as Richard Vladovic has indicated, our high school – San Pedro High – will go year round.
Then think about this; This means 1,000 kids will be streaming through our streets – without adult guidance because many parents will be working -- all day long. They will receive a lesser education, according to the school board member, because studies have shown year round schooling is not nearly as successful as traditional year round.
And then think about this: What will all that mean for the future of all of San Pedro? Rather than send the kids packing with shoes to the streets, I'd much rather give the kids wings they need to learn to soar the sky at Angel's Gate. Then perhaps, we will truly be making good citizens.