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School's in for L.A. Unified students

September 9, 2009 |  9:57 am


School opened today for the majority of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, including thousands attending new schools built with voter-approved bond money.

The openings included two of the highest-profile sites in L.A. Unified's sprawling universe -- a new performing arts school at 450 N. Grand Ave., and two new elementary schools on the spot once occupied by the storied Ambassador Hotel.

"We're very excited," said a beaming Rex Patton, the executive director of the $232-million arts high school, still known only as Central High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts."We're all feeling very anticipatory and excited about everything that's happening."

The arts school had a difficult birth, with years of debate over who would attend and how they would be selected, and nearly a year of false starts before an administration team could be put in place in May. All that was set aside this morning as students streamed onto the campus, an architectural centerpiece that occupies the site of the former district headquarters on a promontory overlooking the 101 Freeway.

"So far, we love it," said Zara Akopyan, who brought her son from Glendale to begin ninth grade. He is a pianist. "Look at this," she said, squeezing her arm. "Goosebumps."

The two schools opening at the Ambassador site were the first of several planned for the property on Wilshire Boulevard just west of downtown. The UCLA Community School will be run as part of a partnership with UCLA, and the the New Open World Academy will focus on global awareness and social action. Both are opening as kindergarten-to-fifth-grade schools this year but will eventually go through 12th grade.

The entire 24-acre site is being developed by the school district at a cost of over $500 million and will eventually hold about 4,000 students.

Rajib Mazumder liked what he saw as he brought his daughter, Joyeta, to her first day of kindergarten at the UCLA Community School.

"She's been waiting for school a long time," he said.

He said he liked the school because of the link with UCLA and because "I actually heard they are trying to teach two or three languages." (The school will have a Spanish-English dual-language immersion.) Plus, he said, "This is a lovely environment."

Today was the first day for all L.A. Unified schools that are on a traditional calendar -- all but about 80 of the district's nearly 900 schools. The rest are on year-round schedules.

Other new schools opening today were:

  • Young Oak Kim Academy, a middle school in Koreatown
  • William R. Anton Elementary School in City Terrace
  • Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, a high school in Boyle Heights that is part of a portfolio of schools run by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
  • Sun Valley High School
  • Valley Region Early Education Center #1 in Panorama City
  • Sara Coughlin Elementary School in Pacoima

-- Mitchell Landsberg at Central High #9 and Howard Blume at the former Ambassador site

Photo: Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Central High #9 for the visual and performing arts downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times