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A School Site to Behold

May 28, 2000

Building a high school on the Cal State Northridge campus would be an idea worth pursuing even if the Los Angeles Unified School District didn't desperately need sites for new schools.

But it does--which makes the proposal more urgent. The school board's facilities committee should give the go-ahead for the district to conduct a feasibility study.

Unfortunately, even need and innovation won't ward off opposition. CSUN's neighbors are known for casting a wary eye on any campus development. And new high schools tend to rile up just about every neighborhood--never mind that the district needs to put 100 new schools somewhere.

One way to gain community acceptance is to involve the public early and often. The district promises to do so, having learned the hard way what happens when it doesn't. But community members, in turn, need to do their part, which, for now, means to keep an open mind.

The LAUSD and CSUN envision an 800-student academy for high school students interested in pursuing teaching careers. Worried neighbors should take note of the size, which is a fraction of the enrollment of, say, Monroe High School's 4,000-plus students.

The school would be built on an undeveloped parcel on the east side of the campus, along Zelzah Avenue north of Halsted Street. In exchange, the school district would deed the university the long-closed Prairie Street Elementary School, which is not considered in good enough shape to retrofit. The university would use the site for parking.

What the plan's supporters have in mind is a unique partnership, a laboratory for public school teachers and university professors to work together to improve student achievement. High school students would be able to share the university's library, language and science labs and athletic facilities and to enroll in college courses. CSUN education students would serve internships at the school.

School board member Julie Korenstein, who represents the area and is championing the proposal, considers the arrangement a win-win situation, a "perfect marriage." Assuming the community is adequately involved in the planning, it's hard to imagine a reason not to bless such a union.

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