One reason is that resources have also been put toward athletic facilities, grass fields and play equipment. Outside of school hours, the district will maintain an open-door policy for the 240 acres of recreational space that will come with the new schools. Such spaces can be a big draw in parks-starved Los Angeles County.
Clearly, the district views its construction boom in the context of neighborhood building. School Board President Jose Huizar points out that the new schools are the first to be built in 30 years, even as the district's population swelled by 50% to its present total of about 750,000 students.
"Today, most of our schools are over 60 years old. Overcrowding has meant more busing, more bungalows and more year-round school schedules," Huizar said. "These [new] schools are a community resource that are an important piece of a larger puzzle."
Will district perceptions change as new and renewed school facilities come on line?
Already, some areas of the district are forging reputations for strong academics and quality schools.
That's been a boon for property owners in areas of the city such as Mt. Washington and the Wonderland Avenue Elementary School neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills, to name two, where top-notch instruction and active parent involvement have clearly had an effect on neighborhood desirability.
"Mt. Washington is crazy. You'll see bidding wars on houses that are 700 square feet," said Michael Raske, an agent with the Los Feliz branch of DBL Realtors who represented the Arteaga-Johnsons in their search.
"I know a lot of people who will consider spending $150,000 more than they want to because if they have two kids they figure they won't have to put them into private school."
Among schools set to open by the end of 2005, those in the Mid-Wilshire and Koreatown neighborhoods are expected to have a positive influence on property values in those areas, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
"New schools can do much to bring back those neighborhoods," he said. "There are a lot of areas in the urban core that have character and proximity to amenities, but they've slid. And that starts with the schools going downhill."
But amid the optimism, there are doubters.
Although real estate appraiser Don Glaza agrees that superior schools can lift property values, he questions whether new schools will automatically make a difference. The key for parents, he said, is consistently high test scores, not new facilities.
And there are other considerations as well.
"If you live two blocks away from a new school, that's great," he said. "But the houses right next to a new school can actually lose value because that's where the traffic is."
Krueger also strikes a cautious note. "New schools," he said, "can't be a substitute for improved instruction and better scores."
Errico said he and his wife scoured the Internet for test scores and spoke to people in the neighborhood about area schools before making their decision to buy in Pasadena. Still, they are hoping the local schools improve a bit in the next few years.
"I would love to send my kids to public schools," Errico said. "And not just for economic reasons."
And would he consider buying a house in Los Angeles? Perhaps.
"All this money being poured into building new schools gives me hope for the future," he said.
Darrell Satzman is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at email@example.com.