Fritz Burns had a vision 60 years ago when he developed the 20,000 homes just north of what is now LAX. He knew that if Westchester was going to be a community it would have to have schools, and so he offered up 42 acres to the LAUSD to build the community a high school.
Well LAUSD has taken that away from the community now. Westchester no longer has a high school as the LAUSD School board voted Tuesday to turn Westchester High School into a magnet school.
Westchester high school will be modeled after Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) with a fairly strict demographic balance. 30% white and 70% other racial groups equally split. It won’t be like LACES however because one of the schools biggest benefits is that it is a grades 6-12 span school that provides long term continuity to those enrolled there. High school magnets don’t enjoy the same kind of success.
What will that mean to the Westchester community? Through the ‘Choices Program’, the school will probably be sought after by families throughout the district as they try to get their children out of their own badly performing district schools. 59 out of 70 LAUSD high schools do not meet AYP and are designated ‘PI’ schools. That’s a lot of potential feeders schools that may funnel students into Westchester’s soon to be magnet program.
For the time being, just about anyone from Westchester willing to give the LAUSD ‘yet another chance’ will have an easy time enrolling but as enrollment goes up, at some level students ‘will need points’ to get in. Westchester families will not have any priority over any other students in Los Angeles. As a magnet, it’s not our school anymore.
As enrollment climbs there will eventually be a shortage of available seats within the strict demographic enrollment structure. Westchester’s African-American and hispanic students will likely be the first to find out we don’t have a local high school anymore as students from elsewhere in the district find seats in the school. Not accumulating enough points playing the enrollment game, they will be the first to be bused off to Venice, University, Hamilton, or wherever LAUSD officials can find seats.
Not far behind, Westchester’s white students will also be bused off to other low achieving high schools in the district. It’s only a matter time as each one of these demographic groups fill up the allotted space available.
This is what happened at LACES when it took over Louis Pasteur Junior High School in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.
Westchester’s magnet school success assumes that the district is able to provide an education that people will value. That’s is a big IF given this districts poor academic record.