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Riverside's Hillcrest High: Budget Cuts Force New $105 Million School To Sit Unused

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RIVERSIDE HILLCREST HIGH SCHOOL
AP File Photo

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP); A Southern California school district spent $105 million on a new state-of-the-art high school, but after three years of funding cuts doesn't have the money to operate it.

The Alvord Unified School District in Riverside was supposed to open the new Hillcrest High School in September to relieve overcrowding at another high school. But the district can't afford to hire staff and pay the costs to open it, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

"We simply can't do it," Superintendent Wendel Tucker told Fox 11.

The school board postponed the opening until the 2012-13 school year, but there's no guarantee the district will be able to afford opening it then, either.

"It's extremely frustrating," board member Greg Kraft told the Times. "We made a promise to the community, and I think we need to keep it."

The board decided to build the school five years ago to send the overflow from the 3,400-student La Sierra High School, where classes average 33 to 37 students and lunch periods and assemblies are staggered.

But since then, the district has seen its $130 million budget slashed by $25 million. Forty teachers have been laid off, and numerous other cutbacks made.

Hillcrest, which was funded through a voter-approved bond issue, was built with a robotics lab, smart boards in every classroom, a state-of-the-art performing arts center and wireless Internet.

Tucker said the district will save about $3 million by delaying Hillcrest's opening, but will have to spend about $1 million of that in security and maintenance on the empty campus.

"Hillcrest High is a perfect example of what's wrong with state funding right now," Leigh Hawkinson, president of teachers union Alvord Education Association, told the Times.

Students said they were disappointed they would have to attend La Sierra for at least another year.

"I was kind of bummed because I really wanted to go" to Hillcrest, incoming ninth-grader Jacob Barrera told the Times.

Natalie Mercado, another new freshman, echoed her classmate. "I really don't want to go to La Sierra, but I guess I'll have to go with it because I have no other choice," she said.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

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