The Watts Learning Center Charter School just got a little bigger. The long-awaited opening of the charter school's new permanent facility attracted the likes of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, and Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas.
"After sheltering and nurturing the minds of our children for ten years, its finally time the Watts Learning Center had its own place to call home," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "The center has not only re-imagined what Watts can become, it's created a citywide model for what works in education our kids: high expectation, accountability and a sense of community."
The Watts Learning Center is a K-6 charter school that provides a world-class education to inner-city students and a learning center for the South Los Angeles community. It currently serves 340 students with a rigorous curriculum and high expectations.
The charter school has moved around among several sites since it opened in 1997 with two kindergarten students and three teachers. In 2000 the school found a home at its current location at 95th St. and Broadway.
Even though the school had to overcome funding issues, its students have been able to excel academically. The school's API score is 824 out of 1,000, which has risen each year. More than 50 percent of its students score at or above proficient on state tests in math and nearly half are at or above proficient in English Language Arts, which is well above neighboring schools. The school will add a sixth grade and plans to open a middle school for the 2009-2010 academic year.
We are like the little engine that could," said school co-founder and board chair Gene Fisher. "We kept pushing despite some setbacks and now we have this important and permanent place for learning not only for our children but for their families."
The new facility, which houses nine classrooms, is also a green building–part of the push to develop healthier school environments–with a solar hot water system, solar panels, and green roofing materials. Each classroom is a learning laboratory beyond the desks and whiteboards. Exposed beams provide lessons on math angles, science, and architecture.
The new $5 million building is housed on the property with two older structures and the older church building, which the school is currently raising funds to renovate to serve as a multipurpose room and a temporary library.