Future of LA arts high school in doubt

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Less than six months before it's set to open, the future of what had been planned as a conservatory-level arts high school run by the Los Angeles Unified School District, appears to be in jeopardy. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The steel and glass campus for 1,700 students stands finished on a 10 acre parcel on Grand Avenue and Temple Street. Araceli Ruano is chair of Discovering the Arts, one of the civic groups guiding the school as it prepares to open.

Araceli Ruano: We don't have a principal, we don't have an executive director, we don't have an arts curriculum, we don't have a budget, we don't have teachers, and we don't have a list of students.

Guzman-Lopez: Ruano says she's lost confidence that L.A. Unified can run the school. She's working to persuade a charter school company to assume control.

L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad supports that idea. Broad has given about a million and a half dollars to run the school; he'd pledged 5 million more. Now, he says, he's not planning to donate that money.

Eli Broad: We had made an agreement to make a certain contribution subject to the district doing certain things, including hiring an executive director and so on, all of which they failed to do.

Guzman-Lopez: Broad's involvement in the school's construction has significantly driven up the price tag. The school district had budgeted less than $100 million to build the campus.

Broad pushed L.A. Unified to elevate its architecture to a grand scale. Now, the school district projects that the building will come in at more than $200 million.

One person who's been involved in the steering meetings says L.A. Unified administrators are reluctant to let go of the project. Superintendent Ramon Cortines was not available for comment.

A spokeswoman says that school board president Monica Garcia is open to the idea of a charter company managing the school – as long as it opens, as scheduled, in September.