Jordan Grad 2016-1.JPG (copy)

Jordan High School students had their graduation ceremony at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at Veterans Stadium.

—Gazette photo by Damien Barranco

Long Beach's Unified School District has been both challenged and rewarded in 2017. Here are a few of the highlights.

District of the Year

LBUSD earned the 2017 District of the Year award from the business news publisher Industry Dive and its publication, Education Dive.

The award is a part of the 2017 Dive Awards recognizing education’s top disruptors and innovators. LBUSD was nominated by Education Dive readers and was ultimately chosen for the award based on the district's modern curriculum and pathway programs, emphasizing technology and 21st century learning, according to a release.

The announcement was made at Cabrillo High School in December. LBUSD superintendent Christopher Steinhauser was in attendance.

"We will continue to find new ways to close achievement gaps for our students,"  Steinhauser said. "Being recognized for these efforts on a national stage gives our people a much appreciated boost of moral support."

Honor From U.S. News

Seven Long Beach schools made it on the U.S. News Best High Schools list in 2017. The ranking considers more than 22,000 schools in the country.

LBUSD schools recognized include CAMS, Avalon, Wilson, Millikan, Renaissance, Lakewood and McBride high schools.

Graduation Rates Up

For the fifth year in a row, graduation rates in the district improved, according the the LBUSD website.

The overall 2017 graduation rate is at 84.2%, an increase of 0.2% over 2016. Altogether, Long Beach students graduate at a higher rate than all of Los Angeles County by 3.3%.

The high school with the year's highest graduation rate was CAMS at 89.6%, with Jordan following with a graduation rate of 86.3%.

Overall Academic Improvement

2017 state tests show scores in English and math have improved more than 10% for many schools in the district, with several schools (including CAMS High School and Addams, Alvarado, Burbank and Fremont elementary schools) seeing achievement gaps closed by 50% or more, according to the LBUSD website.

“McKinley and other schools have carefully analyzed student achievement data and provided extra resources to students who need the most help," Steinhauser said.

College Promise

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills in October that directly impact elements of the Long Beach College Promise.

Assembly Bill 1533 made the Long Beach College Promise Partnership Act a permanent program in the district. Assembly Bill 19 created the California College Promise as a state law.

Participating colleges will be able to reduce fees for new students for a full academic year, adding onto the already existing free first year at LBCC for Long Beach residents.

“We commend Governor Brown’s support of a free first year of community college, which aligns with our local efforts through the Long Beach College Promise and will remove barriers for many more students,” Steinhauser said.

CAMS Receives National Blue Ribbon

The California Academy of Mathematics and Science is among 342 National Blue Ribbon Schools announced by the U.S. Department of Education for 2017.

CAMS won the award in 2004 and again in 2011.

DACA Repeal

President Trump suspended the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Obama signed into law in 2012. The program allowed young, undocumented immigrants to live, study and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

Superintendent Steinhauser said that the district will continue to offer support where it can to dreamers.

"Today our school district reiterates that our role as public school educators is to welcome and serve all students who arrive at the schoolhouse door, regardless of their situation in life," he said. "We embrace diversity as a strength in our schools. We will not participate in potential federal enforcement actions based upon immigration status. "

Measure K

Approved in 2008, Measure K has allotted $1.2 billion in property taxes to renovate current school structures and build new facilities. 

The first Measure K school built was Nelson Academy (1951 Cherry Ave.) in Signal Hill. Other schools, including McBride High School and Roosevelt Elementary School, were made possible due to money from the bond.

In 2017, Browning High School opened its doors to its first freshman class and Jordan High School kicked off the first year of scheduled updates and additions to the existing campus.

Other updates, including wi-fi, bells, security systems and field and aquatic updates will be paid for by Measure K.

Measure E

Schools in the district began to see updates to heating and air conditioning systems and more thanks to Measure E, a second $1.5 billion school bond initiative approved by voters in 2016.

The various campus repairs will include improvements to structural foundation, upgraded fire alarms and security systems, handicap accessible upgrades, among others.

But improvements take time, and students were shuttled to alternative campuses and portables while their schools were seeing repairs.

In 2017, portable classrooms were installed at Kettering, McKinley, Monroe, Riley, Rogers and Webster elementary schools to prepare for the inevitable shuffle of students away from their classrooms to temporary buildings during the construction expected to start this year.

"The long-term plan is that every school that does not have air conditioning will get air conditioning," Vivien Hao, bond communications coordinator for LBUSD's Measure E bond, said.

And the bond goes beyond central heating and air. Track and field and technology updates can be expected. Wilson and Cabrillo high schools saw updates to their track, field turf and more in 2017.

More district updates due to Measure E and Measure K include:

Browning High School

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Browning High School Front

LBUSD celebrated the grand opening of Browning High School (2180 Obispo Ave.) in August.

The school's construction and programming is the result of $55 million through Measure K, the bond measure passed in 2008 to improve school buildings in the Long Beach Unified School District. 

The school's pathway program is unique, emphasizing hospitality programs in the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries.

"Long Beach is becoming more of a tourism city," Dr. Felicia Anderson, Browning High School principal, said. "Hotels, dining  we need to have folks in those industries to help them grow."

Browning High School Starts First Day Of School With High Hopes From District Despite Challenges

Educare

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modular educare building

This two-story prefabricated building installed by American Modular Systems completes the basic construction at Educare of Los Angeles in Long Beach.

After the spring groundbreaking ceremony at the Barton Elementary School (1100 E Del Amo Blvd.), the final modules were installed for the 31,483-foot Educare Long Beach campus later in the year.

Educare's model will provide research-based programs to prepare low-income children for kindergarten, an effort emphasized by Mayor Robert Garcia in tandem with the College Promise and scholarship programs to encourage students to pursue and excel in education.

The campus is the first to operate in Southern California and is among 22 Educare campuses in the country. 

"Educare Los Angeles at Long Beach will focus on changing the life trajectory for low-income children from birth to 5 years old by helping them prepare for success in school and life," according to a release presented by Educare Los Angeles at Long Beach.

Jordan High School

With a projected budget of $100 million for the first phase of construction, Jordan High School (6500 Atlantic Ave.) began the district's tentative eight-year renovation plan to retrofit the entire campus with updated infrastructure. 

In 2017, the school saw updates to campus buildings J, K, L (building #’s 1100, 1200, 1300) and H, I, M, N (building #’s 700, 750, 1400, 1500), which include upgrades to the campus grounds, the installation of 49 portable classrooms, art and music studios, technology-integrated classrooms for campus pathway programs, a campus cafeteria and more.

Current and future projects include classroom installations for the school's upcoming hospitality and tourism programs, updated library and gymnasium. Renovations are expected to be completed by 2024.

According to the LBUSD website, the "Jordan renovation constitutes the largest and most ambitious campus renovation project ever undertaken in the Long Beach Unified School District."

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Renaissance High School Updates

A new arts building was added to the Renaissance High School campus.

Renaissance High School

Renovations were in the works at Renaissance High School (1400 E 20th St.) in 2017, with a projected open date of fall 2018.

The project promises additions to the 1930s structure including a new performing arts building (Renaissance is a performing arts magnet school), gymnasium and new building foundation. $40 million from the Measure E bond was reserved for Renaissance High School upgrades and renovations.

Phase 1 Renovations

Other schools that began updates in 2017 include Poly and Wilson high schools for updated track and field turfs and Cleveland Elementary School with an air conditioning addition.

Renovations throughout the district will continue through the 2018 school year.

For news and updates in the school district, go to TheGrunion.com or lbschools.net.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstuzman@gazettes.com.

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