Building L.A.'s rail system will create thousands of jobs. Can a transportation boarding school fill them?
Photo Above: Shown is an artist's rendering of the boarding school at the Vermont and Manchester site, which could have a transportation and infrastructure focus. (Courtesy of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas)
Boarding school conjures a certain image: children in preppy blazers, leafy quadrangles in New England and tuition that costs more than many families earn in a year. That stereotype would not apply if officials carry out their vision for a dusty, trash-strewn lot in South Los Angeles that has sat vacant for more than two decades.
Their pitch? A transportation boarding school, free to its students.
The school would offer a vocational and college-preparatory curriculum, tightly tailored to train students for jobs in the transportation industry. Officials say some could find work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or local contractors after graduation; others could go on to college to study engineering, architecture or urban planning.
The 4.2-acre site at Vermont and Manchester avenues where the school would be built has been vacant since the 1992 Los Angeles riots, when a swap meet was torched and burned to the ground. Since then, the land has been caught in a tug-of-war between politicians and residents who disagree on what should be built there to address blight.
“For 25 years, we passed this spot and thought about insurrection,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is also a Metro director, at a press event Monday. “But today, we think about resurrection.”
Though the proposal is in its infancy, it has sparked resistance from some South L.A. residents who say the neighborhood needs more sit-down restaurants, grocery stores and retail space — not a boarding school.
Los Angeles County won ownership of the lot through eminent domain in April. The boarding school is a key piece of the county’s development plan, along with apartments, a job training center, a plaza for transit riders on Vermont, and 50,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store.
Metro hopes graduates could address a critical need in Southern California: qualified workers. Nearly a dozen new rail lines are to be built across Los Angeles in the next four decades, creating thousands of vacant positions in construction and engineering. Already, Metro struggles to fill some jobs. The agency hires about 2,200 people per year, and is continuously recruiting for some positions, including track inspectors and engineers, Peterson said. About 40% of Metro’s 11,000 employees are eligible for retirement today. In L.A., officials hope to attract students from across the county who have been homeless, in foster care, or involved in the criminal justice system — and have reached out to LACOE, the Los Angeles Unified School District, community colleges and social service agencies for advice.
“What we’re trying to do is really flood the market with qualified people,” said Metro Chief Executive Phil Washington. “We want to be the farm team for the industry.”
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