Fewer schools was a mistake elsewhere

Posted: Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Having spent a large part of my life in the "Upper One," I understand that most Alaskans "do not care how they do it in the Lower 48, especially California." If that still rings true, then you should not repeat California's past mistakes.

I have been teaching for 15 years in one of the most populated middle schools in the nation. We attempt to educate 3,800 students year-round, with approximately 2,600 students on our campus daily. Faced with increasing enrollments in the mid '80s, the Los Angeles Unified School District launched year-round schools to fit as many students as possible into their existing classrooms. This allowed LAUSD essentially to squeeze three schools into one facility. As a new teacher under this system, my average class size was 28 students. My class size today averages 38 students. LAUSD is finally building new schools, now that property and construction costs have tripled.

Juneau has not had the growth L.A. has had in the past decades; however, since my graduation from Juneau-Douglas High School 30 years ago, your high school population has doubled. Juneau is in the enviable position of making a choice on how to handle this situation. To delay construction of your new high school will not resolve your overcrowding problems. Any alternatives to rectify the situation, would only be stopgap measures, at best.

Will the new high school be an exact copy of JDHS? Hopefully not. A wise administrator once told me that "great schools were like excellent meals: unique ingredients combined with careful planning and preparation." Special programs at each high school will enhance opportunities for your students, not limit what is available where.

Monetary issues will always exist; avoiding the costs now will not make them less later. So instead of signing a petition to delay the building of a new high school, put your energies into finding dynamic leadership, dedicated teachers and community support with a clear vision of the future.

Laura Brady Maaradji

Huntington Park, Calif.



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