05.01.2013 Facilities Planning, Financial Advisory, K-12, Program Management No Comments

Oxnard District Plans to Open Academies at 3 Schools

By Jeremy Foster Special to The Star


Middle school students in the Oxnard School District will have more opportunities next year to pursue specializations.

The district plans to open three academies at three intermediate schools, which will be reconfigured as grade 6-8 campuses. The redesigned schools are meant to make students more competitive in the global economy, district Superintendent Jeff Chancer said.

The academies will promote an integrated curriculum of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“In our city, state, and country, we have not produced enough scientists, engineers, and mathematicians,” Chancer said. “We’ve had to go overseas to find the people who can work the jobs of the 21st century. The Obama administration is asking why we are not producing enough scientists. We feel he’s right, and we’re doing something about it.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign that gave $260 million to schools that adopted curriculum geared toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In his most recent budget request, Obama set aside $265 million to support opportunities for participation in these programs.

The district is pursuing a variation of Obama’s proposal by focusing more on the sciences and creating an opportunity for young artists at Haydock School.

Under the district’s plan, Frank School on North Juanita Avenue will house a science and engineering academy that focuses on robotics and marine sciences.

Fremont School on North M Street will offer an academy with a focus on technology, 3-D design and environmental science.

Haydock, on Hill Street south of Wooley Road, will expand its music program, reopening as a visual and performing arts academy by adopting new acting and drama classes.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure we give children a choice of where they can pursue their passions,” said Chancer, adding that students in the boundaries of one school can apply to transfer to another school.

Catherine Kawaguchi, assistant superintendent of educational services, said the curriculum will be developed under Common Core State Standards, a set of math and English standards designed to help students be college- and career-ready.

“These standards demand that our children develop higher critical thinking skills and rigor, and these academies support that,” she said.

Kawaguchi said that in the next 15 months, the curriculum will be developed, facilities will be prepared for the transition, and teachers will receive special training.

The district has enlisted the help of education and facilities consultants at Caldwell Flores Winters Inc. The company is expected to complete the academies by August 2014.

Chancer said the district wants more hands-on instruction and less lecturing in the classroom.

“Our students need to be participants,” he said. “They need to get their hands dirty and see what it’s like to really do science. Quite frankly, we don’t provide a lot of that in our classrooms.”

Janet Kliegl, educational consultant for the academies, said each school will see changes depending on its needs. Science labs, however, will be remade as state-of-the-art centers, she said.

Money for the academies will come from Measure R, a $90 million bond measure approved in November by voters of Oxnard. Some of the funds are set aside for construction of new facilities.

The district is hoping for a federal Magnet Schools Assistance program grant that could provide $12 million for the three schools.

On April 17, the board of trustees heard a report from Kawaguchi and project consultants. Board President Ana Del Rio-Barba liked what she heard.

“This is very progressive and gives our students an opportunity to begin developing skills for their future,” she said.

Haydock Principal Amelia Sugden said the school has expanded its after-school music and dance programs and hopes to bring back theater and drama courses that were cut from the curriculum.

The school will continue its core curriculum but with the academy will expand its visual and performing arts offerings.


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