$578 million RFK schools open in Koreatown

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

It’s the first day of school for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Thousands of them will enroll for the first time in shiny new buildings at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown.

It's the official opening of what some observers call the “Taj Mahal” of public school construction.

Its $578 million price tag makes the RFK Community Schools the most expensive public K-12 campus ever. The 23-acre complex arose on the site of the historic Ambassador Hotel, where a gunman assassinated U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968. The new campus includes showpiece buildings alongside a state-of-the-art swimming pool, a public park and a marble RFK memorial.

About 4,000 students from Pico Union, Koreatown and other neighborhoods will attend five distinct schools – including one run by UCLA – that concentrate on arts and technology, global studies and other themes. L.A. Unified officials hope the complex will become a model for urban education.

It’s also become an unintended model of school construction excess. After major layoffs and program cuts, the district still grapples with a half-billion-dollar deficit. Officials say that even if the RFK campus hadn’t been built, they couldn’t have diverted the voter-approved bonds that paid for the project to solve L.A. Unified’s budget shortfall.