It’s that time of year again: The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) open enrollment application period will begin the first week of May for placements in the 2014-15 school year. That means that if you are the parent of a child who will start kindergarten in September, now is the time to start visiting potential schools.
Luckily, DTLA parents have a lot of options to choose from. Two elementary schools opened in downtown Los Angeles in the past year and there are a number of good schools in the surrounding neighborhoods. Remember, thanks to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) choice policies, your child does not have to attend their zoned school, so you have a lot of flexibility in deciding where your kid goes to school.
A few things to consider when looking at schools: test scores are important, but they aren’t the only factor you should consider. A school with high test scores can have a “kill and drill” environment with too much pressure for many children, while a school with more modest scores could be a hidden gem. The only way to find out? Visit the schools and talk to the teachers and parents! Check out this CNN article for tips on what to look for during your school visit. You can also learn more about school choice in this site’s Scandalously Informal Guide to the LAUSD, guest-authored by Sandra Tsing-Loh.
Below is a list of elementary schools in or near downtown for you to consider.
Metro Charter Elementary School: This parent-run charter school opened in Fall 2013. Located on the California Hospital campus in South Park, it serves grades K-2 with plans to add a transitional kindergarten and third grade in September 2014. From the school’s website: “The curriculum of Metro is rigorous and balanced, helping children develop self-confidence, critical thinking and a true passion for lifelong learning. Metro will leverage the incredible resources in our neighborhood – parks, cultural centers, businesses and rich historical sites – to provide meaningful learning opportunities and enhance the experiences of what will be one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation.”
Ninth Street School: The school reopened in Fall 2013 after a three-year, $54 million renovation of the campus. While the school, located on 9th Street and Towne Avenue in the Fashion District, had a troubled history prior to the closure, LAUSD has invested considerable resources to ensure the school’s success. The principal, Dean Simpson, is not your average administrator—he has spent the past decade teaching, coaching and mentoring principals and teachers on effective teaching practices, lesson design, and professional development.
Para Los Niños Charter Elementary School: Located adjacent to the American Apparel factory in the Industrial District, this school has 380 students in 18 classrooms from kindergarten to fifth grade. The school uses the Reggio Emilia Approach, an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. Although Para Los Niños has struggled with persistently low scores on statewide academic tests, the school has waiting lists for enrollment due to demand from parents employed in the area.
Castelar Street Elementary School: Located in Chinatown, this school rarely has open enrollment slots available due to the high demand from neighborhood families. But Castelar offers a dual language program (50/50 Mandarin and English), which is open to students outside of the school’s zone. Contact the school directly for more information.
Neighborhood Schools in Surrounding Areas
Solano Avenue Elementary: This school has truly remarkable test scores: 923 on the California Academic Performance Index (API), ranking 10 out of 10 against schools statewide. Located just north of Chinatown, Solano has been popular with DTLA parents because of its academic performance and proximity to downtown.
Clifford Street Elementary: Clifford Street has just 160 students in grades K-6 on a campus located in Echo Park. Last year the school scored 861 on the API, ranking 7 out of 10 against schools statewide. In 2010, the school was named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.
Dorris Place Elementary: Located in the Elysian Canyon/Frogtown neighborhood, this school has big ambitions to become the “next Ivanhoe or Eagle Rock Elementary” in the words of its principal. It has a very active parents organization that holds several fundraisers throughout the school year. Last year the school scored 870 on the API, ranking it 8 out of 10 against schools statewide.
Elysian Heights Elementary: Located in Echo Park, this school has 295 student in grades K-6. Last year, the school scored 820 on the statewide API exam, ranking 6 out of 10 against schools statewide.
Alessandro Elementary: This is a popular neighborhood school in Silverlake, serving 473 students in grades K-6. Last year, Alessandro scored 839 on the state API, ranking 6 out of 10 against schools statewide.
Charter Schools in Surrounding Areas
Gabriella Charter School: This school shares a campus with Logan Elementary in Echo Park. Last year, the school scored 892 on the API, ranking it 9 out of 10 against schools statewide.
Citizens of the World: This Silverlake school is an off-shoot of a high-performing charter located in Hollywood.
Note: Magnet school applications began in December but enrollment is still taking place for schools that have openings.
Arroyo Seco Elementary School: Located in Highland Park, this K-8 school has a focus on museum science.
Lee Elementary School: Adjacent to Virgil Avenue on the border of Silverlake, this school has a medical/health science focus.
Plasencia Elementary School: This science/technology/math magnet is located just west of downtown and serves grades K-5.
There are a number of private schools near downtown, most of them faith-based.
Pilgrim School: 370 students from preschool to 12th grade, with a boarding option for grades 9-12. Pilgrim is affiliated with the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Elementary tuition is approximately $18,000 annually.
Immaculate Conception School: Located in the Pico-Union neighborhood just west of Downtown LA, this Catholic school offers preschool through 8th grade. Tuition is $4200, with lower rates available for siblings.
St. Vincent School: Located on Figueroa near Orthopedic Hospital, this Catholic school educates grades K-8. Tuition information available upon request.
St. James Episcopal School: This Koreatown school enrolls 360 students from preschool to grade 6. Tuition for grades K-6 is $19,500.
Update: Below is a map of schools in and around downtown Los Angeles that was created prior to the opening of Metro Charter Elementary. Credit: Simon Ha.