The £400 million new 'academy-style' school

06 Sep 2010

 It's a story that's been running in all the media in the USA -- the new school that has cost almost $600 Million (£400 million) and is due to open next week.

 It's been dubbed education's 'Taj Mahal'  and 'the most expensive school in history'. It even outstripped the cost of the Beijng Olympic stadium. It has a huge swimming pool and an impressive auditorium and has been cited as outrageous extravagance. 

 But, in fairness, it's not that simple. The school - or more accurately schools - are intended not only as community schools but also as a memorial to Robert F. Kennedy who was assassinated on the site where the new schools have been built.

There will actually be six schools on the educational campus, serving 4,200 children ranging from nursery school students to sixth-formers. They have been built on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy was shot 42 years ago. Parts of the hotel have been preserved as part of the memorial aspect of the schools. It has been argued that it was better to build  real schools as a tribute to Kennedy than to build a large, non-functional monument.

Nevertheless it has been highly controversial, particularly as the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) - which runs it - has a $640 million budget shortfall and it has laid off 3,000 teachers over the past two years. 

The schools are Los Angeles' version of  England's academies. Known as 'pilot schools', they have autonomy over their budgets, curriculum, assessment and even the school year. For more on  LA's 'pilot schools' and the Robert F. Kennedy Schools see: 






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