Tuesday, April 15, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

In what appeared as a miraculous buy-in package to build a high school at Angel’s Gate, Los Angeles school officials this week turned criticisms into advantages for residents to continue the progress toward building an 800-seat campus at the site.

Linda Del Cueto, the superintendent for region district 8 which includes all of San Pedro and areas stretching up north to Watts, promised a list of benefits that might encourage even critics to turn their heads around and consider the site. She added the school likely would either become a 9th grade academy or a 9th-12th grade high school

The Los Angeles Unified Superintendent David L. Brewer, III, makes the final determination, however.

The proposed promises included:
--Every student attending the school must live in San Pedro
--A magnet school will not be built at the site
--The proposed school would not be a satellite to San Pedro High, but exist as its own entity and run as its own school
--No “cherry picking,” such as taking only the brightest students from San Pedro High will occur
--Residents likely will have the “preferred option to chose which school their child attends, Angel’s Gate or San Pedro High.

  • There are two options in which the new high school --if built-- could work. One proposal opts for a 9th-12th grade high school with small learning communities. The second: allowing a 9th grade academy only, splitting it into two learning communities and then those students would matriculate to San Pedro High School.

School officials believe that just the volume of sports alone at San Pedro High will attract residents to the larger, currently overcrowded high school while other parents will want their children in a smaller learning environment.

“It will not be a magnet school,” Del Cueto told a small crowd of about 20 at a meeting at San Pedro High School, which included both city and school officials, teacher union representatives and residents in leadership roles. “We will not bus kids into this community. We already have two magnets (at SP High).
“What’s hard about this, let’s face it, we haven’t built high schools for years and years…There’s really so much in the air. The athletics really helps drives the question.”

In addition, the superintendent said her team was considering the Angel’s Gate High School, projected to open in 2012, would use a small learning community system– which groups students in smaller houses with the same interests.

The district is currently adopting smaller learning communities across the board to cope with the giant population of many of its current schools. San Pedro High School, for example, was built in 1936. By 1970, the campus housed 72 classrooms with 2,500 students. The student population, however, has now climbed way beyond its capacity and now has 3,561 students and an additonal 34 bungalows, said Principal Bob DiPietro.

That extensive overcrowding – where students complain about standing up through class and barely being able to make class on time due to swollen crowds in the hallways – has driven the district to look for other options, such as building at Angel’s Gate.

For nearly three decades, the school district has owned 47 acres at Angel’s Gate. The proposal would allow for the 800 seat campus to continue an expansion of up to 1,215 students at a later date.

Residents near Angel’s Gate have fought sharply against the proposed school, saying that the traffic will clog residential streets, increase accidents on an already accident-prone Alma Street, ruin the serenity of the area, drive out foxes living at the site – and destroy the wholesomeness of the neighborhood with noise pollution.

School officials said they are attempting to mitigate these issues. Parking is a repeated concern. However, Doug Epperhart, with the Coastal Neighborhood Council indicated that school officials should meet with the committee planning the Angel’s Gate master plan. The master plan, which develops the park part of the area owned by the city of Los Angeles, is considering a 600-space underground parking structure, he said.

“I was very impressed,” said Epperhart of Monday’s meeting (4/14/08), who had criticized the district earlier for not trying to meet the resident's needs.