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The Clock is Ticking on Downtown's Elementary Future

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, May 11, 2009, at 01:53PM

Yesterday, Li from Under the Alexandria wrote an entry reflecting on the one year anniversary of her family's move Downtown. Despite the economic climate, she looks down from her loft at 6th and Spring and finds that Downtown is still undergoing an amazing transformation.

But despite her love for the neighborhood, Li is looking at having to leave Downtown in a few years to find somewhere better suited to raising her child.

The biggest problem? A lack of good options for elementary schools. After talking about the need for better playgrounds, Li writes:

The school situation is an even bigger problem. 9th Street Elementary is the only public school zoned for Downtown and they primarily serve homeless kids. According to Susana Benavidez, they are doing a great job for those students, but in terms of test scores they are ranked among the lowest in the city--not a surprise, given the unsettled lives these kids lead, but not a great fit for a kid who is achieving at grade level or better. The only other alternative is private school. As it turns out, there is a good private school in City West, the Pilgrim School. But we can't afford to shell out $15K-$20 a year for tuition, so that's not an option for us (I'd much rather save money to pay for Kidlo's college tuition).

The upshot of all this is that we are likely to be moving out of the neighborhood two or three years from now, when Kidlo is ready for kindergarten. It's really a damned shame because we love living a pedestrian lifestyle, we love having relationships with all the local merchants, and we love seeing the neighborhood grow and change before our eyes. It's something so rare in Los Angeles. But when you have a family you ultimately have to do what's best for the kid, and in this case, moving to a decent school district is what we need to do.

For Downtown to be a healthy community, it needs to offer the amenities necessary for those who move here to stay here as their situation in life changes. Now, certainly not all residents going to stay Downtown as they raise families, but it is in Downtown's best interest to offer them the ability to do so should they choose. Otherwise Downtown will be in a constant state of flux, failing to develop a core of long-term residents who become deeply invested in the community's future.

Li's message sets a challenge for those who have a hand in Downtown's development: We've got two years to get that elementary school figured out. That's something I'd like to think Downtown's up to.


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