A new vision for Roosevelt High has some Boyle Heights residents worried about demolition

BOYLE HEIGHTS — The L.A. school district has unveiled a concept for an estimated $173 million makeover of Roosevelt High.  The sweeping project will add new classrooms buildings, a performing arts center, gymnasium and community wellness center. But the same plan will mean the demolition of some of the most prominent and oldest buildings on campus. That has some residents upset.

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 month.

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 new buildings planned for Roosevelt High | Roosevelt High School Comprehensive Modernization Project

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.

Some of the residents who expressed concern about the demolitions told Fox 11 they would prefer to see the buildings at Roosevelt renovated.

The public will have more opportunities to comment on the proposal early next year.

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