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The Most Expensive High School in LA's History Finally Opens

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Yesterday was the ribbon cutting and grand opening of a school that has gone down on the record books of local history thanks to its years of woefully planning and eventually enormous price tag. Yes, Belmont Roybal Learning Center is up and running.

The school is "one of 74 new schools completed as part of LAUSD's $12.6 billion new school construction program to end involuntary busing and year-round calendars, and to provide every student a seat in a neighborhood school" and is both a crowning jewel and a thorn in the side for the massive district. The project started twenty years ago, but hit a major snag in the 1990s when it was determined that the site had soil contamination, described by as grounds beleaguered by "old oil wells, and potentially harmful gases -- methane and hydrogen sulfide -- associated with petroleum were seeping to the surface."

The LAUSD did not give up, however, and sought bids from private companies to address the issue and construction moved forward. They hit another setback a few years ago when earthquakes destroyed 60% of the buildings. After pouring more time, money, and other resources, the school was completed and opened for matriculation last month not as Belmont as intended, but re-named to honor the late Congressman Edward R. Roybal, and set up as a "learning community" as opposed to a more traditional high school.

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The ribbon-cutting ceremony held on the site yesterday brought together local politicians and LAUSD employees, executives, and board members to celebrate a two-decade long headache that will hopefully help the 2,800 students who now attend the facility have a higher quality of education. The campus boasts amenities like green spaces between buildings and over 300 trees, underground parking, science labs, a modern kitchen with a pizza oven, a dance studio, and "a $17 million toxic gas mitigation system that costs $250,000 a year to operate" (Wikipedia).

According to, the learning communities are set up as follows:

Roybal Learning Center will educate students in ninth through 12th grades and is home to four small learning communities and two independent pilot
schools. The SLCs were established at Belmont High School and have moved their complete programs over to Roybal Learning Center. The SLCs are the International School of Languages, the Activists for
Educational Empowerment, the Business and Finance Academy and the Computer Science Academy. The two independent pilot schools are Civitas School of Leadership and the School for Visual Arts and Humanities.

Civitas School of Leadership opened with students in the ninth and 10th
grade, and will add 11th and 12th grades in the next two years. The School for Visual Arts and Humanities begins with students ninth through 12th grades.

The schools are part of the Belmont Zone of Choice Initiative. First established in 2007, the Belmont Zone of Choice is a network of 500-student, autonomous college preparatory schools that downtown-area families can select based on students' interest.

The Roybal Learning Center cost $400 million to build.

Photo via Division