School’s back. Here are eight new things you should know about L.A. Unified

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More than 550,000 Los Angeles Unified students head back to school Tuesday. Here’s what’s new in the nation’s second-largest school district:

1. Boys get their own school now

L.A. Unified launched an all-girls school last year. But federal guidelines suggest that if a district has an all-girls school, it must also provide a similar offering just for boys.

The Girls Academic Leadership Academy opened in 2016.
The Girls Academic Leadership Academy opened in 2016. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The Boys Academic Leadership Academy in South L.A.’s Westmont neighborhood is a single-sex middle school that will emphasize science, technology, arts, engineering and math.

Going into its first year, it still has plenty of room. The school was slated to serve 200 students in the first year, in grades six and seven, with plans to eventually add eighth grade and a high school. By the end of last week about 100 had enrolled.

2. It’s going to be easier to learn a new language

Before this year, L.A. Unified had 87 dual-language programs in kindergarten through 12th grade. Now there are more, thanks in part to a voter-approved measure that makes them easier to launch.

The programs teach students in English and another language, often Spanish. That’s the case in most of the 16 new K-12 bilingual options, though programs with Mandarin and Armenian are opening. And two of the 10 new pre-kindergarten programs are in Korean and English.

<![CDATA[<![CDATA[<![CDATA[ ]]]]]]>]]]]>]]> Pre-kindergarten Elementary school Middle school High school 10 schools 12 3 1 New dual-language programs in L.A. Unified Pre-kindergarten Elementary school Middle school High school 10 schools 12 3 1 The focus is on younger kids for bilingual education Data: abcdefg hijkl mnop qrstu vwxyz 1234 56789 Sonali Kohli @latimesgraphics Source: Los Angeles Unified School District

There’s a focus on starting these programs for younger children. Research shows that dual-language programs can help students who are learning English grasp the language more quickly.

3. Preparing kids to graduate, with preschool

The district has opened 28 new pre-kindergarten programs in addition to the 10 dual-language ones. Early education is one of the few areas that got a boost in this year’s budget.

Lisa Harmison taught one of the first expanded transitional kindergarten classes at 186th Street Elementary in 2015.
Lisa Harmison taught one of the first expanded transitional kindergarten classes at 186th Street Elementary in 2015. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

District officials say early education is key to getting English learner students up to speed and putting L.A’s children on the path to high school graduation and college.

4. Charters are continuing to grow

Eleven new charter schools are opening within L.A. Unified’s boundaries this fall. Most are part of established charter school organizations. One, the Crete Academy in South L.A., is designed for homeless students and those living in poverty, and will initially cover pre-kindergarten to sixth grade.

The Celerity Educational Group, currently at the center of a federal investigation, is opening two schools this year. These will replace two schools closed by the State Board of Education last year.

5. Magnet schools galore

Magnet schools continue to be one of the district’s primary strategies to persuade families not to enroll in charter schools. There will be 11 new magnets this year, bringing the total to 225.

Most of the new magnets, which are all required to have a theme and promote desegregation, will have a STEAM focus.

6. Some kids get to sleep in

Five district middle schools and high schools are starting later this year, between 8:30 and 9 a.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been pushing for later start times, arguing that children need more sleep. But critics say that students could just end up staying awake later.

Which L.A. Unified schools will begin later than the rest?

  • Los Angeles Academy Middle School – 8:30 a.m.
  • San Fernando Middle School — 8:30 a.m.
  • Steven White Middle School — 8:30 a.m.
  • New Middle School Pathway — 8:45 a.m.
  • Metropolitan Continuation High School — 9 a.m.

7. L.A. Unified is finished building new schools, for now

L.A. Unified has wrapped up a 20-year, $10-billion effort that yielded 131 new schools and 65 expanded campuses. The final new school, the $160-million Maywood Center for Enriched Studies, opens Tuesday in southeast Los Angeles County.

Architect Ben Levin of DLR Group walks through the new Maywood campus, which opens Tuesday.
Architect Ben Levin of DLR Group walks through the new Maywood campus, which opens Tuesday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Maywood’s opening means that the district’s last overcrowded school, nearby Bell High, can switch back from a year-round schedule to a traditional calendar.

The district plans to focus on repairing and modernizing its more than 1,000 schools — although there’s money, there’s not nearly enough for that task. Homeowners will be paying off the school construction bonds for decades. The tab this year is $131 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

8. Finish community college — in high school

L.A. Unified is rapidly expanding the number of middle and high schools at which students can take credit courses from community college instructors. At seven high schools, they’ll be able to leave with either an associate’s degree or a professional certificate.

An associate’s degree typically counts for two years of college. The certificate qualifies students for jobs that require special training.

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