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Overcrowding in L.A. Schools

December 29, 1990

The Times article "District Wrestles With Crowding at High Schools" (Metro, Nov. 20) relates a very sad tale for all of our Los Angeles students, parents and teachers--too few classrooms and none under construction.

As president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, I would like the Los Angeles community and the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Bill Anton, to join me in saying, "We're mad as hell and we're not willing to take it any more!"

We've known for years that the influx of new students was going to cause us massive classroom shortages--but no additional high schools were constructed.

It is being argued that the cost of property in the central area of Los Angeles is prohibitively high and that to build high schools takes 17 or more acres of land, which is basically non-existent unless you use eminent domain and dislodge families from their homes.

UTLA supports the Ambassador Hotel as a high school site. But that's only one site, and we need multiple sites. So, let's set the Ambassador aside and get down to cases.

The solution to our school housing problems is twofold.

First, a new thinking must take place in reference to building junior and senior high schools. Do we really need 17 or 18 acres for a secondary school?

Perhaps we ought to be finding half that acreage and building up, rather than out. Why not four schools to accommodate 1,000 pupils each instead of one school for 4,000 students?

What about sports? Those students who want to participate in sports should be allowed to enroll in schools which already have the facilities. After all, the greatest percentage of our school population is there to learn academic thinking and vocational skills.

I believe that the high school of the future will serve students and parents better if it's smaller and more intimate. Students would know their peers, and teachers would get to know all of the students better. Planning, counseling and safety would certainly be enhanced with smaller school size.

Secondly, I feel that it is vital to streamline school construction. I want to see new schools within the next two years. We can put up a 60-story structure in a two-year period. It seems to take forever to erect a secondary school.

I call upon the district and our friends in the Legislature to expedite a building program for Los Angeles that will not let a generation of our students suffer for lack of adequate housing.

As president of UTLA, I pledge my support to work with the school district, the business community and the Legislature to make things happen for all of our children and teachers.

HELEN BERNSTEIN

President

United Teachers-Los Angeles

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