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When the school bell rings at one Los Angeles high school, it's rush hour for the 5,000 students who are squeezed into a space built for 1,800 students.

"I have to rush to my classes because if I don't get there on time, I don't get a seat," says Crystal, a 17-year-old senior. "There are people sitting on the teacher's desk. That's not right."

Susanna, who teaches Spanish, says she has 45 students in her class...but only 38 desks. "I think these kids are being cheated," she says.

For Gillian, a teacher who has been at this school for five years, each day feels like a losing battle. "The real crime is that I can't give each one of [my students] the help that they need," Gillian says. "To expect 40 students to all get the education they deserve, it's not going to be able to happen."

The Los Angeles school district recently started a program called Project Diploma to try to prevent students from dropping out, and they say plans to build and repair hundreds of schools are now underway.
FROM: Oprah's Special Report: American Schools in Crisis
Published on April 12, 2006