Eleven years after it opened its doors, Larchmont Charter School is preparing its first senior class for graduation this June. Two of the four co-founders, Heather Boylston and Rebecca Hutchinson, say the milestone gives them a strong sense of accomplishment and pride.
“It’s amazing how the school has affected the entire community,” says Hutchinson. “Our neighborhood is now full of people involved in the charter school movement.”
A Bronson Ave. resident and mother of two, Halle and Samantha, Hutchinson says it all started in 2004 with several concerned parents meeting in Lindsay Sturman’s backyard on Beachwood Dr.
“We were a group of parents unhappy with the local LAUSD option available to us, Van Ness Elementary. The principal of that school seemed to actively discourage parent participation,” says Hutchinson.
Boylston agrees. “At the time, our neighborhood had a lot of young kids, but Van Ness was underperforming and overcrowded. Our first move was to go to the principal, but the school wasn’t interested in hearing from us. So we began talking about starting something new.”
The group of founding parents, which also included Mary Nelson, created a project-based, community school that reflected the socio-economic diversity of the neighborhood.
The mission was simple, to provide an exceptional public education for all.
“We wanted an alternative to the old model of desks facing a chalk board regurgitating information,” says Boylston.
The dream was made a reality in September 2005 when the school opened as an elementary school with 120 students.
Inspired by its success, two more schools were added, a second elementary campus in West Hollywood and a middle school in Hollywood, but according to Hutchinson the prospect of leaving the kids without an option for high school was difficult. “After we set up the elementary schools, the next goal was to provide an education for these kids through 12th grade.”
In 2011, the LAUSD board of education approved an amended charter to include the new high school.
“There is an enormous sense of pride from the whole community,” says Boylston. “We’ve overcome so many hurdles, everything from the physical locations to the way the classrooms are managed. It’s evolved so much over the years, but now we finally get to watch the first class of students graduate.”
The school was the first of its kind, according to Boylston, who says several other schools have since copied their model, including City Charter on Pico Blvd. and Valley Charter in the San Fernando Valley.
Today Larchmont Charter has over 1,400 students enrolled in grades kindergarten-12 across four campuses. For more information, visit larchmontcharter.org.