2010-08-26 / Schools

Students return to Oak Park Unified School District in record numbers

Classes start on Wed., Sept. 1
By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

Despite shrinking enrollment at school districts throughout the region, the student count this fall at Oak Park Unified School District will break records, officials say.

The first day of school on Sept. 1 will usher 4,083 students into the seven schools in the district, 273 more than last year.

Because OPUSD is a designated District of Choice, students from outside its boundaries can attend an Oak Park school on permit without being released from their home districts first. Many districts will not give permission for students to leave their home school since school funding has been slashed over the past three years. Schools receive funding based on the average daily attendance of students, so administrators are reluctant to lose students to other schools.

At the Oak Park Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting on Aug. 17, Peter Kristensen, co-chair of the district’s facility committee, gave board members an update of completed summer work.

New windows have been installed at Oak Hills and Red Oak elementary schools, and both schools received a fresh coat of paint. The district office also has a new exterior paint job, and the parking lot for Oak View High School has been repaved and speed bumps have been installed, Kristensen said.

Door hardware has been upgraded at all schools to allow teachers to lock classroom doors from the inside in the event of an emergency or lockdown, Klauss said.

All of the schools have been upgraded with digital thermostats to provide more efficient use of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The new thermostats will ensure that all systems are shut off when not in use during weekends, evenings and holidays.

Medea Creek Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade science classes have been modernized with upgrades to electrical systems or other technology. Doors at the school that had water damage have been repaired.

Kristensen explained that there have been delays in the new air conditioning units planned for Medea Creek and Oak Park High schools. The district is waiting for final plan approval by the Division of the State Architect.

Brookside Elementary School, one of the district’s oldest schools, is in the first phase of the state’s school modernization program. Brookside is set to receive $1.8 million, while Oak Park High will get $2.7 million to complete Measure R plans.

Certain state approvals for the work are still needed.

“We hope to have these approvals this spring so that we can proceed in earnest on projects at both sites next summer,

including interior and exterior paint, roofs, HVAC (and) science lab upgrades, to name a few,” said Martin Klauss, Oak Park assistant superintendent. Several new administrators will take the helm when school opens. At the district office, Leslie Heilbron has been hired as the new assistant superintendent of human resources. Susan Roberts is the new director of pupil services. A new program specialist, Derek Ihori, has been hired.

Kevin Buchanan will be principal of Oak Park High School and Erik Warren is the principal at Oak Hills Elementary School.

Janet Svoboda was recently hired as the new freshman counselor at Oak Park High.

The board of education is considering furlough days for teachers.

“As furlough days are subject to collective bargaining, these are currently being negotiated with the district’s two employee unions,” Klauss said. “No agreement has been reached on either the number of days or their placement on the calendar, and it is unlikely that this will be determined by the time school starts.”

Klauss said professional development days could be cut if furlough days are implemented, although it is possible student instructional days might be lost.

“When an agreement is reached, it is expected that the calendar would be modified to minimize the impact on the instructional year,” Klauss said. “This might mean placing days adjacent to established holidays or breaks and/or at the end of the school year in June.”

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