The Logan Heights transformation brings new schools and hope to one of the most vulnerable communities in San Diego

There is an educational upheaval going on at Logan Heights to bridge the gap of achievement of underprivileged students.

San Diego Unified has made an investment in the historic Hispanic neighborhood near downtown with the construction of the new Logan Memorial educational campus, known as the LMEC.

About $ 180 million in taxpayer-funded bonds were used to demolish two former schools in the city block between Ocean View and Logan Avenue. Logan K-8 and Memorial Preparatory School were closed and replaced with state-of-the-art buildings, including the first ever high school in Logan Heights , Which will open in August.

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In 2019, Logan and Souvenir Preparatory School were defined as two of the lowest-performing schools in California.

The LMEC is designed to close this achievement gap and prevent more children from leaving to find better education in other parts of the county.

Hector Robles, 14, has been involved in memory preparation for two years. He will now be part of the 2026 LMEC class. “I feel excited to be a freshman,” he said, “to be the first graduate of a high school and to be the first in this high school they are building.”

The LMEC lower schools opened virtually, last year. They include kindergarten through eighth grade this semester. This is the first year that students are on campus following the outbreak of the epidemic and the ongoing restrictions and challenges.

“Now we can teach kids all the way from kindergarten to high school,” said Sarafin Pardes, an instructor at the LMEC band. He previously taught music at Memorial Prep for eight years and decided to stay and help build what he hopes will become an award-winning school.

“We hope to be able to hold a mariachi program, a band and an orchestra,” he said. “I hope we also offer jazz and Latin jazz. Music that reflects our community and something that reflects the background of our students.”

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Charles Castle

Sarafin Pardes instructs the band’s students in seventh and eighth grades at the new Logan Memorial Educational Campus in Logan Heights. Pardes taught music at the former Memorial School that closed to make way for the LMEC, San Diego, California, April 11, 2022

LMEC teachers use the Montessori method exclusively in elementary school, starting with a mixed kindergarten class of children ages 3, 4, and 5. Montessori education encourages the independence and creativity of students with more practical learning. The method uses more teachers as classroom instructors instead of just lecturers.

The non-traditional pedagogy was developed by an Italian physician named Maria Montessori in the 1900s. Her approach and curriculum are often used up to fifth grade in select private schools in the United States

Montessori died before she could expand her teaching methods to high school students. San Diego Unified plans to continue the Montessori principles in the new high school using the county’s own curriculum.

Adriana Chawarin-Lopez is one of the school’s strategists and mentors who helped implement the model. That’s why it’s really important to use Montessori in Logan Heights, where we work with children who have been marginalized in the education system, “she told KPBS News. I really want to show that these students are just as capable as any other child of achieving this academic and social success. “

Chavarin-Lopez said it will be at least a year before they have evaluation data to see how they manage to achieve that success.

Melanie Cray is the principal who is also known as the learning designer of the new high school. Construction crews are still completing the final details before opening in the fall.

There are high expectations that the LMEC will eventually stop the flow of parents who send their children to other schools that they believe are better for their education.

“To some extent, I think we’re a bit of a question mark,” said Melanie Cray, principal and sixth-grade learning designer. “The feeling among the community is that they want to wait and see and make sure we’re really going to do what we say we’m going to do.”

Eighth-grader Amani Fulton, 14, is confident her school is on the road to greatness.

“Everyone is watching us because we are so new. They see if it will work out? I’m like yes it will work out,” she smiled.

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