by Magnet Yenta Alisa Rivera
So where do we stand with schools in Downtown Los Angeles? On the face of it, it isn’t a pretty picture. Right now, the neighborhood elementary school for kids downtown, 9th Street Elementary, is closed for a $54 million renovation of the campus and isn’t set to reopen until September 2013. The school, located on 9th Street and Towne Avenue on Skid Row, was in deep trouble before the closure. In 2010, LA Weekly wrote a devastating profile of the school, describing it as among LAUSD’s worst. Even using the district’s “similar schools” ranking, in 2010 9th Street ranked 1 out of 10, making it the worst among its peers. At the time of its closure, the school’s API score (a measurement of academic performance of California schools) was 670, far below the state target of 800.
It’s unclear how the campus renovation will impact these grim numbers. The new campus will include a 6-8 middle school run by Para Los Niños, a charter school organization known for its work with at-risk children. Representatives from Para Los Niños have said they will play a role in curriculum development at the elementary school as well. But the organization’s schools, including a charter elementary located near the American Apparel Factory on 7th Street, have also lagged academically. In 2010, the 7th Street school received a similar schools rank of 2 out of 10.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Honey, pack up the loft and the kid, we’re moving to Burbank.” But don’t panic! The good news is that there are some great school options in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding downtown and thanks to the magic of something called “open enrollment” your child can apply to attend any neighborhood school in LAUSD that has openings. We also happen to be in a bit of a demographic slump at the moment, with school enrollments down across the district, which means it’s never been easier to get your kid into the neighborhood school of your choice. Plus LAUSD’s magnet schools offer even more choices. You’ll have to invest time and energy in research, school visits, and paperwork—but you’d have to do that even if you opted for a pricey private school.
High-performing schools within a 15 minute drive of downtown include Clifford Street Elementary in Echo Park (named a 2010 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education with an API of 844), Dorris Place Elementary in Elysian Valley (API: 884), and Solano Avenue Elementary just north of Chinatown (API: 922).
In addition to the school options in surrounding neighborhoods, a group of DTLA parents have seized the day and have won approval to launch Metro Charter School, downtown’s first parent-run elementary charter school (learn more at wwww.metrocharter.org). With a target opening date of September 2013, it won’t be long before we get a quality school option right here in downtown.
To learn more about school options in downtown LA, visit http://www.dtlafamilies.com.
Alisa is a writer whose work has been featured in the Oregonian, the Syracuse Post-Standard, Latina magazine and other publications. She has also had her short fiction published in the Berkely Fiction Review and Iris: A Journal About Women. Alisa and her husband, James Hightower, have been happily raising their son, Nathan, in downtown Los Angeles since 2008. You can see more of Alisa’s work at http://www.alisarivera.com and http://www.dtlafamilies.com.