“Jordan High School’s planned $150 million modernization will be the single largest public works project in North Long Beach,” said Robert Tagorda, LBUSD program administrator in the Superintendent’s office.
The money for the complete modernization of Jordan High School comes from Measure K funds. Passed in 2008, Measure K is a $1.2 billion facilities construction and renovation bond.
Understanding the magnitude of a project like this, the Board of Education and the Superintendent want to do more than just rebuild a school.
“This is a golden opportunity for us,” said Mary Stanton, the school board member whose district includes North Long Beach.
“Superintendent Chris Steinhauser wants to hear from the community before we go to the architect – we’ve never done this before.”
Stanton said the last improvements made to Jordan’s campus was constructing the science building around 1989.
“We want to take this opportunity to have a broader discussion of social and academic programs in North Long Beach,” Tagorda explained. “We want to conduct a needs assessment holistically and look at social indicators such as access to healthcare, crime in the area and so on.”
Tagorda said the study will involve using other studies that have been done in the area. Claremont Graduate University’s School of Educational Studies is collaborating with the school district to compile the study.
“Claremont Graduate University is already working in North Long Beach – we can use their findings and align with the various plans in North Long Beach, as well as surveys of residents and key stakeholders,” Tagorda said.
“Modernization of the school has greater ramifications than education in the community – we want to be socially responsible. We can just build it, but we want to ensure we have strong programs to go in it. Everything is on the table. Ultimately, as a school district, we want to make sure our students succeed.”
In a presentation to the Board of Education on Nov. 9, there was a map of the 33 schools that have received Distinguished School designation since 2001. Not one of them was in North Long Beach.
School of choice is a LBUSD policy that allows students to petition for acceptance into a school that is outside of their residential area.
Tagorda said that district-wide, 40% of high school students go outside of their own neighborhood, but none of them choose Jordan.
“We need to look at how we make schools in North Long Beach competitive, how do we make them strong. This is a once in a generation opportunity – we can reinvent its destiny,” Tagorda said.
Tagorda pointed to the aggregate scores on standardized testing in the area and said they needed drastic change.
“One of the reasons it [the project] falls into place is that it fits in with the Superintendent’s goals to close the achievement gaps,” Stanton said.
Standardized testing scores presented to the School Board show that North Long Beach fifth grade students perform about 11% lower than the district’s average in English/language arts and 6% lower in math. In eighth grade, tests show a 14% decrease in English/language arts scores. Though the percentage of students taking algebra in eighth grade is within 1% of the district, North Long Beach algebra proficiency is 15% below the district average.
“We want everyone to have buy-in – to have a voice,” Stanton said. “We can create a unique campus environment with a program – similar to how Magnet schools were – and we will build the school around that. If it is culinary arts, then we need a kitchen and the school will be designed to accommodate that.
“This will be our crowning achievement of revitalizing a neighborhood with the school as the beacon, the icon for North Long Beach. Jordan should draw kids rather than repel them.”
Ninth District Councilman Steven Neal expressed strong approval for this project.
“I think it’s great. Our office is based on community input – creating strategies and outreach to include as many residents as possible,” Neal said.
“We want to build a better Ninth district and we can anchor our efforts on this educational piece. The more the residents see the improvements like this go into the Ninth the easier it will be to do more – they’ll know the city hasn’t forgotten them.”
The needs assessment already has begun and will continue through May, perhaps through the summer, by Tagorda’s estimation. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013 and be completed by 2015.