The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Board formally approved the creation of the La Mesa Arts Academy (LMAAC) school with a target opening of August 2014. LMAAC will be a 4th through 8th grade school co-located with La Mesa Middle School and will provide students opportunities for both broad and focused arts education.
The unanimous vote came after an extensive presentation by the LMAAC design team of La Mesa Middle School Principal Beth Thomas and district teachers Jon Hayman and Dr. Mark Arapostathis. Thomas noted that this is not a simple revamping of an existing school; but rather the opening of a brand new school. She also indicated that LMAAC has received over 270 letters of interest about possible enrollment. While most of these are from within the La Mesa-Spring Valley district, many are from surrounding communities and even as far away as Ramona.
Mr. Hayman and Dr. Arapostathis provided details of the evolving curriculum and school structure plans. Current planning is to utilize a block schedule to allow for both core subject instruction in math, language arts, science, and history; combined with classes in various arts subjects and opportunities for 7th and 8th graders to enroll in the elective courses offered by La Mesa Middle. Arapostathis noted that by law, instructional minutes for math and language arts cannot be reduced, so schedule flexibility will be key to the proposed arts education programs. Additionally, the arts can be incorporated into core subject teaching.
The district is beginning instruction in the new state and national standards called Common Core and both Hayman and Arapostathis felt strongly that there is a great opportunity for a blending of arts and academic subject matter. Arapostathis noted that Common Core presents a paradigm shift away from just memorizing to challenge students to access, analyze, and hold knowledge. He also stated, “Children engaged in the arts do better in every other part of their lives. We are not training the next American Idol; we are training children for life beyond the stage.”
District superintendent Brian Marshall expressed his enthusiasm for the revitalizing effect that the academy should have on the neighborhood surrounding La Mesa Middle. He noted that with the growing partnerships with nearby Helix High School and LMSVSD’s own Dale Elementary, this area will soon have a close-knit K-12 school community.
Mr. Hayman expressed his thanks for the LMAAC opportunity and mentioning that his son was a soccer player, promised to “Put the ball in the back of the net.” When the approval vote passed, Dr. Arapostathis echoed this sentiment, “You gave us the ball and we will score.”
In addition to the business of the arts academy, the board also voted to approve a pending technology upgrade plan for the district. Speaking to the board, the LMSVSD Teachers Association President Paul Schnaubelt noted, “Teachers need new classroom technology and we are fully in support of this plan.”
General and enrollment information for LMAAC can be obtained on the La Mesa Middle School website: http://www.lmsvsd.org/Domain/25
Please see previous Patch article for interviews with Dr.
Arapostathis and Mr. Hayman: http://lamesa.patch.com/groups/jay-steigers-blog/p/la-mesa-arts-academy-brings-excitement-to-education