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Magnet School to Open for Hearing-Impaired Students

April 16, 1993|HENRY CHU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Backed by federal "peace dividend" money freed by the end of the Cold War, Los Angeles school officials plan to establish a math and science magnet school in the San Fernando Valley aimed at hearing-impaired students--the first program of its kind in the city.

Scheduled to begin this fall, the program will also be open to hearing students, mixing them with hearing-impaired youths in classes to be held at Granada Hills High School and nearby Cal State Northridge.

Teachers will emphasize applied math and technology just as they do at other math-science centers, which are among the Los Angeles Unified School District's most sought-after magnet programs.

The Granada Hills program, which will cost an estimated $275,000 to get off the ground, will initially serve 180 high school freshmen and sophomores, about half of whom officials expect will be hearing-impaired. Currently, the district serves 2,000 hearing-impaired youngsters, who either take regular courses with the help of assistants or attend special classes.

Eventually, the Granada Hills school will serve 350 to 400 students, said Richard Battaglia, the district's magnet school specialist. As with all the district's 107 magnet programs, youngsters must apply for admission. Officials plan to develop a process that will grant hearing-impaired applicants some priority.

"It's a wonderful idea," said Josephine F. Wilson, director of the nonprofit Hear Center in Pasadena, which serves hearing-impaired people throughout greater Los Angeles. "We want our kids to be exposed to what every other kid is exposed to."

Magnet programs were created to provide students with a voluntary integration experience and an opportunity for specialized studies.

Technically, the Granada Hills program is being funded by the California National Guard--playing an overseer role for funds channeled from the defense budget.

At the request of Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), Congress appropriated $10 million from the defense budget last October for the cash-strapped Los Angeles school system to spend on youth programs, taking the money from the "peace dividend" reaped from reductions in the nation's military forces following the end of the Cold War.

Because it was too late in the budget process to remove the money from the Defense Department, the Pentagon was directed to make the grant. And because, under federal law, a defense agency must oversee the spending of funds from the defense budget, the money was routed to the California National Guard to administer.

"Thank God for the National Guard," said Board of Education member Roberta Weintraub, who represents Granada Hills. "Without their money, this program wouldn't have come about."

"It's just like Santa Claus is coming to town," added Battaglia.

The school board formally accepted the funding package last month, clearing the way for establishment of the Granada Hills magnet school, a new math-science center at Revere Middle School on the Westside and other programs focusing on applied math and engineering, as dictated by the grant, which provides $1.6 million for magnet education.

Officials also plan to channel the money into upgrading math and science "enrichment" programs at magnet centers at Dorsey, Fremont, Jordan, Roosevelt and San Fernando high schools.

Details of the Granada Hills program must still be hammered out. The parties involved met Thursday for their first joint planning session.

Tentative plans call for students to split their time between the high school and CSUN, which will make available its classrooms, laboratories, teachers' aides and possibly even professors who know sign language.

"It's particularly apt for Granada Hills because we don't have science facilities that are comparable with neighboring schools. We can certainly use those facilities down there at CSUN," said Anne Falotico, principal of Granada Hills High.

Officials must take care of such small but important tasks as equipping rooms with swivel chairs so that students can face each other when they speak or sign. Hearing students will also be encouraged to learn how to sign, although organizers are wrestling with the question of whether some classes will be taught directly in sign language or whether interpreters and note takers will be provided for hearing-impaired youths.

Magnet Schools Magnet programs are special learning centers for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Some focus on a particular subject area, while others use a special teaching approach.

Two math/science magnets opening next year will bring the number of magnet programs to 107. Below are the magnet schools in the district this year.

TYPE OF SCHOOL TOTAL Alternative school 4 Justice/law 1 Business 1 Enriched studies 2 College incentive 8 Communication arts 1 Community school 1 Math/science 20 Cooperative learning 1 Fashion careers 1 Foreign language/ International studies 3 Fundamental schools 10 Gifted/highly gifted 29 Health/medical 5 Humanities 2 Law and government 1 Music academy 1 Performing arts 10 Open school 1 Teacher training 1 Technical occupations 1 Visual arts 1

Source: Los Angeles Unified School District

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