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

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. The average age of District schools, even including the new schools, is over 50 years old. The District’s current bond program, the School Upgrade Program has the following goals:

  • Schools Should be Physically Safe and Secure
  • School Building Systems Should be Sound and Efficient
  • School Facilities Should Align with Instructional Requirements and Vision

With these goals in mind, a data collection and prioritization effort led to the identification of 11 school sites with the greatest facilities needs in March of 2015 for the development of comprehensive modernization projects. A second group of 11 school sites was identified in December of 2016. These 22 projects represent an investment of approximately $3.4 billion, and include the following scope:

  • 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, North Hollywood High School and Polytechnic High School. Additional examples will be presented from earlier precursor projects, Crenshaw High School and Foshay Learning Center, as well as an early look at the challenges and opportunities of the second group of projects, including Taft High School, Kennedy High School, and Lincoln 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 and provide a multitude of transformational opportunities, including:

  • Removal of relocatable buildings allowed most campuses to recapture additional outdoor space for learning and physical activity, so precious in our urban campuses.
  • Replacement of aging and underutilized shop buildings at several high schools made way for new CTE facilities, to meet the educational needs of the current programs.
  • At several schools, the replacement of inadequate and aging gymnasiums with updated facilities to support health, well-being and school activities.
  • At several schools, the replacement or renovation of visual and performing arts spaces, including art, music, dance and drama classrooms and performance spaces
  • Incorporation of appropriate special education learning spaces integrated into the campus.
  • Improvements to campus accessibility allowing access for all learners.
  • And overall, an improvement to the quality of learning environments.

The panel will share lessons learned from their effort, many of which are being incorporated into the development of the second group of 11 projects. 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.

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

Michael Pinto, AIA, Design Principal, NAC Architecture;

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


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.