2010-08-26 / Schools

New programs at OPUSD

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

With the influx of 273 more out-of-district students as well as grant funds to Oak Park schools, the district has more money available for several new programs, although some cuts could not be avoided.

Oak Park Unified School District Superintendent Tony Knight said that five new electives have been added at Medea Creek Middle School. Two of the programs are components of the Foreign Language Acquisition Program grant, which the district won through a state competition.

The program includes a sixthgrade elective, “Exploring Your World: China,” to introduce students to the geography, history, arts and language of China, Knight said.

A new foreign language class will be introduced as well—Introduction to Chinese, which will include an overview of the culture and languages of China. Basic conversation in Mandarin Chinese will be taught.

New digital art and music courses are being offered. The music class will teach students how to compose, produce and edit music using music software, while art students will learn design software and the principles of graphic design and computergenerated animation.

A choir class for sixth-, seventh and eighth-grade students has been added as an elective. There also will be two school concerts, festivals and special performances.

At Oak Park High School, new programs include stagecraft, AP studio art, advanced ceramics, children’s literature and Spanish IV honors.

Knight said library services have been cut in half at all schools, but he hopes that parentteacher organizations will fill these positions during the year.

Budget cuts have forced school officials to increase class sizes. In kindergarten through third grade, the ratio of students to teachers ranges from 22 to 25 students per class. The ninthgrade class size reduction program for English and math courses has been eliminated.

Other cuts include the loss of aides in kindergarten classes, although Knight said that aides will continue to help teachers in the Discovery K classes.

“All site and district budgets have been reduced by another 10 percent,” Knight said.

“Considering the level of cuts that have been imposed by the state, Oak Park will continue to expand programs for our students, offering our most comprehensive and innovative program ever,” the superintendent said. “We have been able to accomplish this largely due to our enrollment growth of 7 percent this year. . . Still, we bemoan the increased class sizes at the elementary schools; however, the state just isn’t funding the program, so we have little choice.”

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