It's back to school Monday for public school children in Los Angeles (one week later than usual because of budget cuts), and while it's the worst day of the year for some kids, a few of them are getting quite a treat. They are attending what is believed to be the most expensive public school ever built.
The $578 million dollar Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex opened for business on Monday. The K-12 school is built on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 after winning the California Democratic presidential primary.
The 23-acre campus has six different learning centers, and features an underground garage, swimming pool, a state-of-the-art auditorium, soccer fields, public art pieces and a marble mural memorial to Kennedy. The complex is equipped for 4,260 students.
The price tag has drawn criticism at a time when the city and its school system are strapped for cash. But school officials point out it will reduce overcrowding at other schools, and that it was constructed with funds from the district's $20 billion voter-approved construction bond program, which are separate from operating funds.
There was also debate over building anything new on the site.
Preservationists wanted to rehabilitate the old hotel, noting its historic place in the history of Los Angeles since it opened in 1921. Movie stars and presidents from Hoover to Nixon stayed there. Early Oscars ceremonies were held in its grand ballroom. And, of course, Kennedy's assassination.
But the hotel, which was closed in 1989, was run down, and ultimately the city won the right to demolish it. However, history was not simply forgotten. The new school sits on the footprint of the hotel, and it bears similar architecture.