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L.A. School Set In Gang-Ridden Housing Project

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The Los Angeles Unified School District last week announced plans to open an alternative school in an East Los Angeles housing project in response to parents' complaints that their children were afraid to go to school because of gang violence.

Earlier this month, parents who live in the housing complex, known as Imperial Courts, charged in a suit filed against the district that gang violence puts their children's lives in jeopardy every time they walk to and from school.

The alternative school will be the city's first school site to be located at a housing project.

The satellite school--which was largely the idea of Maxine Waters, a city assemblyman--will serve students who would normally attend David Starr Jordan High School.

The school serves four public-housing complexes, each with its own gang identity, "turf," and violent rivalries.

Parents at Imperial Courts say their children must cross through another housing complex's turf to get to school.

Grace B. Strauther, the principal of Jordan High School, said the district offered to provide the satellite classroom at Imperial Courts "so that there is no excuse for students there not to come to school."

Ms. Strauther said it would be preferable for students to come to a full-fledged school where they could benefit from a more comprehensive curriculum.

But, the principal acknowledged, "if they refuse to come to school, then an alternative classroom is better than no school at all."

According to Beverly Martin, assistant superintendent of school operations, the classrooms at Imperial Courts will not only attempt to reach those children concerned with safety, but also those students who do not come to school for "lack of motivation or whatever."

The district is currently refurbishing classrooms in the four-building complex. Details have yet to be worked out, but district officials said they hope to have three teachers serving about 50 students in grades 10 through 12 by January.

Insisting that students and teachers will be safe, Mr. Martin said no special security measures are planned at the satellite classrooms.--lj

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