Transforming the Existing Schools of Los Angeles - Los Angeles Unified School District’s Comprehensive Modernization Program


North Tower - 1st Floor Garden 3

  • Primary Core Competencies: Educational Facility Pre-Design Planning
  • AIA CEU: 1. 0 LU
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities


Los Angeles Unified School District has undertaken a major effort to upgrade, improve and transform its existing school sites. Following the completion of the new school construction program and the opening of 131 new schools, the District turned its attention to its more than 500 existing school sites.

A data collection and prioritization effort led to the identification of 22 school sites with the greatest facilities needs. The resulting 22 projects represent an investment of approximately $3.4 billion, and include the following:

-Retrofit or replacement of approximately 100 buildings requiring seismic upgrades

-Renovation of nearly 70 buildings of historic significance

-Removal of approximately 280 relocatable buildings

-Construction of approximately 680 new classrooms

The District developed a set of core principles to utilize in developing the project scopes, with safety and physical conditions as the primary drivers. Each school brought its specific and unique facility needs, educational program and community culture and presented challenges to the project teams. The District worked with the school sites and project teams to develop solutions that were appropriate to each school site while maintaining a consistent approach to structural analysis, programming and implementation of District design standards.

A District representative and three of the architects supporting this effort will tell the story of the Comprehensive Modernization program from assessment and prioritization, through scoping and programming, to design and construction. Examples from first group of projects will be shared, including Venice High School, Jefferson High School, and North Hollywood High School.

The Comprehensive Modernization projects, ranging in budget from $70M to over $200M bring much needed upgrades, improvements and new buildings to each campus. The projects provide a multitude of transformational opportunities, including removal of relocatable buildings, replacement of aging, inadequate and underutilized buildings with new or renovated CTE facilities, gymnasiums, visual and performing arts spaces, special education learning spaces, as well as improvements to campus accessibility and an overall improvement to the quality of learning environments.

The panel will share lessons learned from their effort, many of which are already being incorporated into the development of the current. Along the way, the project teams have had the opportunity to develop exciting designs that respond to the educational vision of each school and reflect the richness of the District’s diverse communities and history.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Participants will learn how to develop a prioritization process based on District goals.

OBJ #2  Participants will understand how to utilize core principles to guide a scoping, planning and design process to allow for a consistent approach in the development of projects with diverse needs.

OBJ #3  Participants will be able to identify how to leverage site, scope and programmatic constraints on an existing campus to create design opportunities and transform schools.

OBJ #4  Participants will learn how to enhance a school’s identity and support its educational vision through an investment in facilities.

Michael Pinto, AIA, Design Principal, NAC Architecture

Sandy Kate, LEED AP, Associate Principal, HMC Architects

Jorge de la Cal AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, CO Architects

Julia Hawkinson, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP BD+C, O+M, WELL AP, Senior Facilities Development Manager, Los Angeles Unified School District