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Oak Park to get new middle school

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A new middle school will open in Oak Park in the fall – the neighborhood’s first stand-alone middle school since 1963.

Oak Park Preparatory Academy (Oak Park Prep) is a St. Hope Public School and will open to seventh graders in August.

Oak Park’s previous middle school – Stanford Junior High – was burned down by two teenagers in 1963.

There are three middle schools in the district that serve Oak Park students – California, Will C. Wood and Kit Carson – but none are located within Oak Park.

The Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education trustees voted to approve Oak Park Prep’s charter Oct. 6, and the new school will serve 60 students the first year.

The school’s attendance will increase to 180 students over the next four years, according to Paul Schwinn, Oak Park Prep founding principal, allowing time for the new school to “fine tune” its programs as it grows.

Michael Boyd, president of Oak Park Neighborhood Association, said there has been a positive response from the neighborhood about the new middle school.

“People get excited anytime a quality school comes to the community,” Boyd said Thursday. “There are some controversies around charter schools, but overall we want to see kids get the best education.”

The St. Hope Public Schools organization runs three schools in the Oak Park area: PS7, a K-8 program, Sacramento Charter High School and Triumph Center for Early Childhood Education, a public preschool. There are about 1,500 students attending the three schools.

Faye Lawrence, a parent of two Sacramento Charter High graduates and two students who currently attend PS7, said Thursday that the new middle school will provide more educational opportunities to Oak Park families.

“(The new middle school) will be modeled after PS7,” Lawrence said, “and the PS7 kids generally enter high school ahead of other students coming from other schools.

“Being able to get kids on a good learning track earlier will really make a difference in their education,” she added.

At the moment, the new middle school doesn’t have a set location. Schwinn said the school applied in November to SCUSD for space in a wing of the Sacramento High School campus that, until December, housed The Met High School.

Schwinn said he expects to have final approval for the location by spring.

City Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents Oak Park and District 5 on the City Council, said he’s glad to see Oak Park get another school.

“It’s being operated by an organization with a great track record of providing an excellent education, and of sending kids on to be successful in college,” Schenirer said. “They are filling a need in the community.”

Schwinn attributed the success of the schools to their focus on the core subjects of literacy and math.

“We spend 3.5 hours each day on literacy and two hours on math,” Schwinn said. “We’re trying to get our students to a place where they are ready to take calculus in their senior year of high school and take honors classes throughout high school.”

Oak Park Prep students will largely come from the neighborhood’s seven elementary schools – Ethel Phillips, Oak Ridge, David Lubin, Father Keith B. Kenny, Fruitridge, Tahoe and Bret Harte.

As a charter school, however, enrollment is open to any student in any district, Schwinn said.

The school is accepting applications until March 15 for 60 openings for the 2012-13 school year. If the school receives more than 60 applications, Schwinn said, there will be a random-drawing enrollment lottery to fill the openings.

Remaining applicants will be placed on a waiting list.

St. Hope Public Schools will host an information session for interested families Feb. 9 at the PS7 site on the Sacramento High campus.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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