Despite neighborhood opposition to a proposed $30 million Mandarin-immersion elementary school in Mar Vista, LA Unified school board member Steve Zimmer calls the project “a game-changer” in the district’s efforts to reverse years of enrollment declines that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I don’t have accurate words to express how important this issue is,” he said in an interview with LA School Report. “The future of public education on the west side of LA as it relates to increasing enrollment in the future depends on this.”
The proposed Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School on the campus of Mark Twain Middle School, approved by the board last year, represents the first time the district would build a facility to accommodate an instructional innovation open to all students, rather than vice versa, in a shift that recognizes the curriculum’s growing popularity with parents and students across the city.
Zimmer said families of 360 students have committed to the new school, drawn by the focus of its language immersion, and a waiting list includes many more.
“The majority of these students would not otherwise go to an LAUSD school,” he said. “That makes this a sea change in terms of whether LAUSD can plan for enrollment growth or decline.”
Enrollment in district schools is expected to decline in the 2015-2016 school year for a 12th consecutive year. In the most recent year for which the district has figures, 2013-2014, the K-through-12 enrollment was 651,322, a 2 percent drop from two years before. District officials estimate that every 3 percent drop costs the district $100 million in funding.