All Aboard: EF Academy will focus on international students when it opens next year.

All Aboard: EF Academy will focus on international students when it opens next year.

A new boarding school is coming to L.A. County, but unlike traditional boarding schools, this one will focus almost exclusively on international students. EF Education First, a Swiss education company with more than 52,000 employees in at least 114 countries, broke ground last month in Pasadena on its first Los Angeles-area campus, which will sit at the site of a former Catholic university it purchased last year.

When it opens in September after a $90 million renovation and expansion, the 15-acre EF Academy campus on Howard Street will be the first large-scale boarding school to open in the Los Angeles region in nearly 100 years.

EF Education First plans for the school to eventually host 975 high school-age students and 150 faculty and staff members.

L.A. County has less than 10 boarding schools, all with fewer than 500 students. Several are affiliated with religious institutions. The oldest is Webb Schools, founded in Claremont in 1922, which has boys’ and girls’ campuses with about 200 students each.

The EF Academy will differ from other schools with its focus on international languages and cultures. EF Education First executives expect close to 90% of students to come from other countries, especially China and other East Asian nations.

“For our international students, Los Angeles is a very desirable place to live and learn,” said Shawna Marino, vice president with EF Education First.

Marino said the Pasadena location was chosen because of its proximity to major colleges and universities, including Caltech and the ArtCenter College of Design.

“We’ll be collaborating with both those institutions,” she said. “We’ll also be seeking internship opportunities for our students with local companies.”

Major expansion

Lucerne, Switzerland-based EF Education First, which according to Forbes had $6 billion in revenue in 2017, purchased the former campus of William Carey International University in April 2018 for an undisclosed sum.

Almost all the money is coming from EF Education First itself, to convert and expand facilities, Marino said. That’s unlike facility and expansion projects at private schools, which often rely on philanthropic contributions.

EF Education First has hired San Francisco-based Gensler as the chief architect. San Diego-based Bycor General Construction is the general contractor; Bycor built facilities, at EF Education First’s San Diego campus.

Plans call for the 277,000-square-foot Pasadena site to expand to roughly 320,000 square feet. Of the original 11 buildings, four structures totaling 43,000 square feet have already been demolished, Marino said. Another six are set to be renovated.


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