Kyrene devises programs that speak to students - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Localnews

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Kyrene devises programs that speak to students

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Posted: Thursday, April 8, 2010 11:00 pm

Three Kyrene Elementary School District schools may start offering specialized programs this fall to reflect community interests and attract students.

If all goes according to plan, three different Kyrene schools could start transforming into a dual-language program, an accelerated academy and a leadership academy in fall 2010, Superintendent David Schauer told a community forum on Wednesday.

Plans are still in the early stages – the district hasn’t even settled on which schools would host most of the programs. However, Schauer did say any changes would happen gradually and probably wouldn’t disrupt existing students.

Mention of the specialized programs was just one part of a series of discussions Schauer is having across the district to explain how budget cuts, declining enrollment, changing demographics and the need to compete in the educational marketplace are affecting the district. A full list of where those forums are taking place is available at www.kyrene.org.

The district was designed for about 21,000 students but reached its height of 19,700 in 2000, Schauer said. Since then, the community has aged, and more competition has come in, leading to 17,200 students this year.

Specialized programs are one method the district could use to attract more students.

One school would host a dual-language program, a model where students are immersed in two different languages throughout the school day.

“We envision teaching Spanish and English to all kids so they become truly bilingual,” Schauer said, adding that the district has identified a few elementary schools that may host the program, but hasn’t made a decision yet.

The program would likely start with two or three preschool or kindergarten classes, then add grades each year, Schauer said. Eventually, every student in the school would be involved in the program, and it could spread to a middle school, Schauer said.

Kyrene would also like a middle school to house an accelerated learning academy, Schauer said. There has not been a decision on where that academy would be located.

The accelerated academy would offer advanced classes to all students, Schauer said.

But instead of requiring students to pass a test to get into the program, instruction would be coupled with small-group instruction or extra support for students who need it, Schauer said.

“You don’t have to keep kids out of advanced classes,” he said. “All kids can really do this if we give them the right kind of support.”

That program would also have a character development and prevention component, with things such as role models coming into the classroom to talk to students, Schauer said.

Another elementary school would offer a leadership program, which would help students take charge and track their own learning. That program would be based on an educational component of the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

District spokeswoman Nancy Dudenhoefer said components of that program are already being used in some district schools.

“This is more focusing that and marketing it,” she said.

Schauer said a school has been identified to host that program, but he wasn’t ready to reveal it until he had talked to that community.

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