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School Board OKs Magnet Program for Venice High

May 12, 1988|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer and

Venice High School is racing the clock to ready the campus for the fall opening of Los Angeles Unified School District's 87th magnet center--a program emphasizing foreign languages and international relations.

The new magnet program was approved Monday by the Board of Education. It initially will enroll 245 ninth- and 10th-graders (the regular high school program will continue to enroll 10th- through 12th-graders). Eleventh- and 12th-graders will be phased into the magnet program over the next two years, with an anticipated total enrollment of 502.

Venice High Principal Sheila Hirshberg said staff member Emilie Gino has been named coordinator of the new program. Hirshberg said that hiring staff and creating a language laboratory are among the tasks that must be completed in the next few months.

"We also want to contact corporate sponsors from the international community to share their expertise with us," Hirshberg said.

The district's magnet centers are a network of elementary, junior high and high schools and programs within schools that attempt to achieve racial balance by offering special curricula or teaching methods. Started in the late 1970s as a voluntary integration program, the magnets are among the most sought-after schools in the district. About 26,000 of the district's 592,000 students attend magnets, and an additional 10,000 are on waiting lists for the schools.

The new center will be the first in the district devoted to foreign languages and international relations.

70% Minority Enrollment

The district hopes to enroll 70% Latino, black, Asian and other minority students and 30% white students in the new program, Richard Battaglia, the district's specialist for magnet centers, said.

The new magnet was originally proposed by the staff of Venice High School. According to Principal Hirshberg, a program with an international focus is a natural for Los Angeles in light of the growing importance of the Pacific Rim. In proposing the new magnet late last year, she argued that "a vital need exists to educate our students in understanding the global aspects of culture, economics, transportation and business." The new program is intended to "reduce geographic illiteracy and linguistic isolation."

Westside school board member Alan Gershman, an advocate of the program, described Venice High School as "the ideal site for this particular program" because of faculty strength in languages. Hirshberg noted that the teaching staff is strong in global studies as well.

Venice is also able to accommodate additional students because of declining enrollment. Hirshberg said the school has about 2,050 students but could accommodate up to 2,800.

International in Scope

Battaglia noted that the new magnet is a "good way to consolidate the language resources in the district and also to capitalize on the fact that this city is becoming very international in scope."

Although the specific languages to be offered have not been determined, the program is expected to offer instruction in some less common languages as well as Spanish and French. Among the languages being discussed are Arabic, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese and Russian. Latin may be offered as well.

The program will allow students to begin studying a foreign language in ninth grade. As Hirshberg pointed out, most educators recommend that high school students take four years of the same language.

In addition to language study, world geography and other global studies will also be an important part of the curriculum, Hirshberg said.

Option of Study Abroad

It is expected that students in the new magnet will have access to the resources of nearby colleges and universities. Hirshberg noted that UCLA is one of the few universities in the country that offers interdisciplinary studies devoted to Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Near East. Summer study abroad will also be an optional part of the magnet program.

The board approved a one-time start-up allocation of $74,900 for the program.

Information on how to apply for the new magnet will be given this month to all eighth- and ninth-graders in the district. Students seeking applications may also call the school.

"We are going to do this in record time and open up in September in full swing," Hirshberg said.

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