State budget cuts are the main cause for the closure of Rosie the Riveter Charter High School, school officials said, but there is hope the school will reopen next fall.
“The cuts this year were about 15%, but this has been progressive,” said Alexandra Torres, executive director of the nonprofit Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles, which managed the school. “It was heartbreaking, but we are going to take a break and secure funding and open the school again. Everything has to do with finances.”
The charter school, first opened in 2007 and authorized by Long Beach Unified School District, had about 40 students enrolled last year. About a dozen graduated, but the rest had to be transferred to other high schools. Additionally, five teachers were laid off, Torres said.
Having only 40 students was another reason why the school was forced to shut its doors, Torres said. The number of students directly impacted the school’s per-pupil money from the state.
Charter schools receive public money, and private donations, and are certified by the school district, but are not subject to some of the same rules as other public schools.
Rosie the Riveter Charter High School followed a similar, difficult curriculum as LBUSD, Torre said. In addition to typical high school classes, there was special emphasis on life and employment skills.
Yolanda Morga, 17, is an alumna of the high school. She graduated in June and is applying for college.
“When I heard the school was closing, I didn’t believe it,” she said. “It was a good school and I know a lot of people who would have liked it there. There were less students than at a typical high school, so there was more one-on-one time with teachers.”
Morga said she and her peers and teachers at the charter school were like family. She said she found help at the school both academically and personally that helped her get to graduation day.
Raina Espinoza, 16, attended the charter school last year. Since the closure, the Long Beach resident decided to enroll at the Port of Los Angeles High School, a charter school in San Pedro.
“I will miss all the teachers,” she said. “Especially Ms. Linda Parrott, the principal. I was closest to her.”
Today, an unfinished mural of Rosie the Riveter overlooks empty halls. The transferred students are in their first few weeks studying at other schools. Unfortunately, Torres said some decided to give up on their dream of graduating, deciding instead to drop out rather than try another high school.
Although WINTER, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that oversaw the school, did contribute money, Torres said the $80,000 WINTER spent last year was too much for the nonprofit to continue to absorb.
“We need to raise money specifically for the school,” she said. In order to reopen next fall, the school needs to raise $150,000 by December, Torres said.
She is planning two fundraising campaigns, along with applying for grant money. She said the first campaign will be to collect pennies for education, and the second will be to secure 150 sponsors committed to giving $1,000 to the school.
Rosie the Riveter Charter High School is located at 690 Studebaker Rd. The space is leased for $1 a year from the power plant located next door.
During the closure, Torres said the school would be used for some adult training sessions for WINTER’s adult programs that help women get the job skills and training they need to work in construction and building trades.
To donate money for reopening the school, call (213) 749-3918.