As many local children returned to school last week, the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District prepared to unveil more details about the upcoming La Mesa Arts Academy (LMAAC). The academy will be a specialized 4th through 8th grade school, located on the La Mesa Middle School campus and targeted for opening in August 2014.
LMAAC is the brainchild of Dr. Mark Arapostathis, LM-SV teacher and La Mesa City Councilman, and Jon Hayman, also a LM-SV teacher. Dr. Arapostathis noted that the planning for the school began about 14 years ago and included input from many former district arts teachers. A special week long summer program was piloted to test the ideas, but budget issues and curriculum changes put a long pause on the idea until it was reconsidered in light of a need for the district to compete with local charter options.
The 4-8 grade model was adopted because of Arapostathis’ and Heymans experiences with Peter Pan Jr. Theater. The goal would be to have grades 4 through 6 receive a broad exposure to performing, visual, and industrial arts in addition to all regular subjects. 7th and 8th graders would choose a specialized area of study within the arts and would be well prepared to continue their arts focus in high school. Hayman also stated that there is great potential within the newly adopted Common Core curriculum for the inclusion of arts related material in all subjects.
The LMAAC leadership team is comprised of Arapostathis, Hayman, La Mesa Middle Principal Beth Thomas, and Learning Support Resource Teacher Ginger Radenheimer. Hayman commented; “The dreaming part is over and now we have to make the dream a reality.” Arapostathis indicated that the selection of La Mesa Middle as the host site would help bring needed revitalization to this area of La Mesa.
Over the past summer, the LMAAC leadership team ran another week long summer arts program to test many of the ideas being considered for the final academy model. In addition to performing in a musical theater based song and dance show, the students learned about the history of Broadway and created both visual and industrial arts projects. While LMAAC will have an in house workshop, for the summer program, outside vendor Woodshop Wizards conducted this part of the course offering.
The leadership team plans to unveil the formal structure of LMAAC in October or November 2013 so that parents can begin planning for the official opening in August 2013. Arapostathis commented that the ultimate intent would be to make the La Mesa Arts Academy, “A school of choice in the district of choice.”
Links to videos on YouTube: