‘No better time’: New charter high school focused on student activism to open in Long Beach

In the midst of a pandemic and a nationwide racial reckoning, a new charter high school focused on student activism and civic engagement is set to open this fall in Long Beach.

We The People Charter High School so far has about 30 ninth-grade students set to start on August 24, according to executive director Anita Ravi. Administrators hope to open with a total of 50 freshmen students and are still accepting applications.

The opening comes as massive protests and civic unrest erupted nationwide over police killings and racial inequity.

“I don’t think there’s a better time, frankly, with everything that has been going on this summer,” Ravi said.

The school’s curriculum is what Ravi calls civic-action based, where the students work to understand current problems, the roots of the problems and ways to fix them, she said. In the first year, the students will focus on the local community and the problems it faces. For environmental sciences, for example, they will be studying climate change and pollution’s effects on Long Beach.

“We want our kids to be attached to their city and have a say in what that process is because it’s their future,” Ravi said.

The school will still teach regular state regulated coursework, including English, math, Spanish and physical education, for all four years with about seven teachers. The students will be learning through the lens of civic engagement and also complete a service project.

Ravi has been working to get the school approved since about 2018. It was twice denied authorization by the Long Beach Unified School District because of funding and enrollment concerns before the Los Angeles County Board of Education approved it in March 2019. The school then had to delay opening because they couldn’t find a facility. It has since joined the campus of another local charter school, Intellectual Virtues Academy, located on Long Beach Boulevard near Pacific Coast Highway.

Like all LA County schools, the tiny charter is starting out online only, but Ravi said the school will be reassessing every five weeks as coronavirus cases fluctuate in the county. Because of its size, she expects the school will be able to adjust quickly if needed.

Ravi said the school plans to expand each year, with 360 kids spread across four grades.

Ravi said that while students can come from anywhere in the city, the majority of the students signed up so far come from the immediate area around the school with many who are already activists. Ravi said she has seen an uptick in parent interest in the school in the wake of the protests.

The school is still enrolling students and there’s no minimum GPA requirement for incoming ninth-graders.

“We believe all kids can learn and all kids have issues that they care about,” Ravi said.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.