The supporters who spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting said the need to provide today’s students with up-to-date and safe classrooms and facilities outweighed the historic significance of the R Building and other old structures. The school has educated generations of immigrants and was witness to the Chicano student walkouts of the late 1960s.
“Our families deserve state-of-the-art facilities that will prepare students for 21st Century careers,” said one school staff member. “I fully support honoring the 1968 walkouts but conserving the R building is not the best way to do it.”
The makeover of the school appears to have split the local elected leadership.
A representative for County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the supervisor backed the modernization. But City Councilman Gil Cedillo, a Roosevelt alumnus, said ways could be found to preserve the R Building while constructing a modern school.
“We can raise the money so that we can have the modernization and also have the deference to the incredible history that this building and neighborhood represent,” Cedillo told the school board.
The L.A.Conservancy, the region’s largest historic preservation group, called the board’s vote as “shortsighted and detrimental to the history and culture” of Boyle Heights. “The R Building can and should be upgraded and modernized to provide students the safe, quality school they deserve.”
It’s been about two years since the L.A. school board approved the concept of modernizing Roosevelt and three other campuses that would replace and fix up aging facilities. However, as the planning process progressed, some residents were surprised to discover that upgrading the sprawling, approximately 22-acre Boyle Heights campus would require tearing down many buildings, reports Fox 11.
Most of the buildings targeted for demolition under the Roosevelt High School Comprehensive Modernization Project include 17 portable or temporary buildings, according to an initial study released last fall.
However, the project would also knock down and replace 11 permanent structures that were found “to be structurally compromised beyond repair.”
This includes the gymnasium and what’s known as the R-Building, which dominates the center of campus and includes the school’s auditorium and classroom space. The R-Building is not only the largest building on campus — with more than 108,000-square-feet of space — it is the oldest and was constructed in time for Roosevelt’s opening in 1923.
The project would add several new classroom buildings as well as a new administration building and an auditorium/performing arts center that would frame a formal entrance to the campus on 4th Street. A new 43,000-square-foot gymnasium with 800 bleacher seats would rise near the cafeteria while an approximately 6,000-square-foot wellness clinic — open to the community as well as students — would be located near the library building and pool.
It will take about four years to complete the project, with construction taking place in phases so class could continue, according to the initial study. When completed, Roosevelt would have a capacity for 2,600 students in 111 classrooms — 21 fewer than it has today.
The project will change the face of a campus that served generations of Boyle Heights students and has been witness to the neighborhood’s shifting demographics and some historic events. In 1968, students at Roosevelt and four other L.A. Unified campuses staged large walkouts, also known as “Blowouts,” that were part of the emerging Chicano civil rights movement. In 1970, the Chicano Liberation Front was responsible for “small bombing events” and arson at Roosevelt, according to the project study.
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