OPEF-guided enrichment courses begin

Elementary, middle school students offered opportunities for Friday courses

Elementary and middle school students, offered the opportunity to partake in Friday virtual enrichment classes through the Oak Park Education Foundation for ten weeks, began their classes district-wide on Sept. 18. 

Currently, there are about 853 students enrolled; each student will take a weekly offered class. Elementary-age students can take classes such as Art at Home, Cultural Cooking, Coding, Music for Little Mozarts and Spanish, though there are others offered as well. Likewise, middle school students are offered “Weather” to Vacation (on climate change), Public Speaking, Movie Making, Hamilton America and Coding. On Sept. 11, there was a special kick-off assembly hosted by the Moorpark College Teaching Zoo. 

“The purpose of the Enrichment Friday Classes is to provide time for the Oak Park students to gain knowledge on a subject matter while having fun. It is to provide support to the families while engaging their children in an interesting class on Friday afternoons,” OPEF Chairperson Scott Star and OPEF Vice Chairperson Carmela Barbieri wrote to the Talon. 

According to Extended Care Program Director Sara Ahl, the idea was first proposed in the spring, while the district expected to begin the 20

Oak Park Education Foundation begins enrichment courses.

20-21 school year with a hybrid learning model. At the time, the school district was interested in opening up afterschool, in-person experiences to elementary school students.

“Tony Knight, our superintendent, proposed that we offer an adapted version of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM), which is a program widely implemented to develop the strengths and talents of all students,” Ahl wrote to the Talon. “The Oak Park Education Foundation [OPEF] Board, in determining the best way to support OPUSD schools under the unique circumstances of Hybrid Learning, proposed providing the funding for this program.”

Eventually, the district decided to move forward with this idea, given the number of experiences and opportunities that it would offer to students across the district. When it was announced that school would be conducted entirely online at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, those who were involved with the creation of the program began to adapt it to fit a virtual model.

“When the Oak Park School District moved to complete distance learning … [the] Oak Park Education Foundation proposed the idea to offer the students at the elementary and the Middle school virtual enrichment classes,” Star and Barbieri wrote. 

According to Star and Barbieri, Ahl, the district representative on the Committee, worked with OPEF to find vendors and instructors to teach the classes. Many of these vendors had already spent time teaching in Oak Park schools, though others will be first-time instructors within the district. The program is a meld of efforts from both Oak Park Unified School District staff and OPEF representatives, and began with a survey sent to parents to determine class topics which would be of high interest to families in the district. Registration for classes opened on Aug. 31.

“Providing classes that are not offered during the school day will enhance the education of the students that participate in the program. We hope that they complete the 10-week program with an appreciation of the subject and a truly positive experience. Maybe some students will find their passion or a new interest,” Star and Barbieri wrote. 

According to Ahl, the district is grateful for the opportunity that has been provided by OPEF thanks to contributions by OPUSD families.

“Any time we can expand the breadth of experiences that our students have, we are able to contribute to their overall growth and development and tap into potential talents and areas of interest,” Ahl wrote.