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It's a new school year, and there are 17 new campuses, including RFK complex, L.A.'s most expensive

September 13, 2010 |  7:17 am


The most expensive campus in Los Angeles was the star opening-day attraction Monday in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Officials were ready for broadcast interviews at 5 a.m. outside the west entrance of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex, built at a cost of more than $578 million.

Some critics have assailed the cost of the school, while preservationists have faulted the Los Angeles Unified School District for preserving almost nothing of the historic Ambassador Hotel, which was the scene of Robert Kennedy's assassination.

A state-of-the-art school "is exactly what these kids deserve," said Board of Education President Monica Garcia. "This has been an amazing investment in public education."

She was speaking of both the RFK campus and a $19.5-billion school construction program. When it began, 27,000 students were being bused out of overcrowded neighborhood schools, and even more were forced to get by with shortened academic years in schools that operated year-round, she said.

The RFK campus can fill its six small schools with students from within a nine-block radius.

"All the kids are walking, walking to school," said school district spokeswoman Shannon Haber.

About 950 students must still be bused out of their neighborhoods, Garcia said.

Most schools have returned to a regular academic year, which is 17 days longer for students than the year-round format.

As of Monday, nearby Virgil and Berendo middle schools returned to the traditional calendar after more than 30 years. The full benefit will be curtailed this academic year by budget cuts, which have shortened the school year by five days, and by larger class sizes that resulted from layoffs.

Across the district, 35 schools, including many small ones, are opening on 17 different sites, and 54 existing schools are returning to a traditional schedule.

Most of the schools lack permanent names, but the exceptions include:

Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy, a middle school; the Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Studies, an elementary school honoring environmentalist Rachel Carson and former Vice President Al Gore; Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary, named for a pioneering African American educator; Esteban E. Torres High School, named after the long-serving member of Congress; and Julie Korenstein Elementary, honoring the district's longest-serving school board member.

-- Howard Blume

Photo: Students arrive for the first day of school at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Pano Panoramas from the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex