Officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Los Angeles Unified School District have announced an ambitious plan to open transportation academies at three schools, including Wilson and Locke high schools.
With money from the federal Department of Education and the Federal Transit Administration, the schools will open at Wilson, Locke and North Hollywood high schools after teachers and staff devise the curriculum this summer.
Wilson teachers hope to begin offering specialized classes geared toward transportation careers by February.
Teachers who will work in the academies have been learning about transportation and occupations in the field in meetings over the past year with the MTA staff.
Wilson English and journalism teacher Monica Studer said that one of the program's goals is to ensure that local designers, engineers and architects can work on future Los Angeles transportation projects. A lack of local people in those fields has forced the MTA to search elsewhere, Studer said.
"We're looking to educate kids to work not just in Los Angeles but anywhere, in any transportation system," she said.
The program will receive $4 million for the next four years from the federal agencies, said Naomi Nightingale, MTA manager for education and job training. The three academies will have room for 600 students.
Wilson will spend $200,000 to renovate a welding classroom to include office and lecture space, a bank of computers, computer-aided design drafting equipment and an area for airbrushing architectural plans. The academy will offer classes in social studies, history, architecture, math, physics, journalism, Spanish and English, all with an emphasis on transportation.
In a history class, we might not necessarily talk about how the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, but we can talk about how transportation was key to the development of this country from east to west," Nightingale said.
Unlike magnet schools, which attract students throughout the district to one school, the academies will only be offered to students who attend those three schools, Nightingale said.
The academies will bring together vocational and college-bound students to give both groups a sufficient background in transportation. Students will also be able to work in summer jobs and internships in related fields.
The academies are an extension of the Transportation Occupation Program established in 1985 by the MTA and school districts in Los Angeles, Compton and Long Beach to give students an opportunity to take 12 additional hours a week of study for a year to land jobs in the industry.