OPIS and Oak View: a look into Oak Park’s independent schools. CAa c

Recognizing the similarities and differences of independent and traditional schooling programs.

Aside from the scratch of a pencil on paper and quiet voices, Room 3 of Oak Park Independent School is silent. Students arrive in their cars, ready to start a lab. They take their seats in the five available classrooms. The teacher clears his throat to get the class to quiet down, then class begins.

On average, the given senior class size at Oak View High School is around 10 to 15 students, while Oak Park Independent Schools typical graduating class ranges from 40 to 50. Teachers share five rooms for OPIS students and roughly five for Oak View, which both take place on the same campus. The rooms are no larger than the average classroom and are divided into a few different sections, each with a teachers desk.

Oak Park Independent School serves students in grade levels ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade. Often times, students attend because they have arrangements outside of school that require too much of a time commitment to attend traditional school for six hours a day on top of homework.

OPIS serves students that the traditional school doesnt work for, for whatever reason, if theyre looking for an alternative school environment where they only need to go to school and meet with the teachers for one hour a week,OPIS and OPHS counselor Jeremy Rogers said. We have a lot of athletes, a lot of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers and then students who are just looking for another school environment.

OVHS is similar to OPIS as they are both independent schools on the same campus within the Oak Park Unified School District. Oak View is different in that it accepts students in grades 10th through 12th as a form of remedial schooling so students can graduate with enough credits.

For our [OVHS] students, our goal is for them to re-engage in the learning process and enjoy that love of learning,Rogers said.

Though the workload and hours spent in a classroom at OPIS and OPHS differ greatly, the expectations and requirements remain the same.

OPIS and Oak Park High School have the same standards; its a college prep course, so we have an A through Z list, we have students getting into Ivy League schools,Rogers said. Every year we have some kids get into UCLA, NYU, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo –– some of the top fifty schools in the country out of the OPIS program.

According to OPIS teacher Samantha Lyons, the program is tailored more to the needs of each individual, rather than the one size fits allprogram that is the normality in traditional schools. Alumni range from actors and actresses to Olympic athletes to Yale students, including names such as Zendaya Coleman and Cameron Boyce.

I have some students who want to be able to work more outside of school, and so they want the flexibility of being able to have their 8 [a.m.] to 2:30 [p.m.] open,OPIS teacher Ty De Long said. Some people just dont want the drama of high school or middle school.

Staff numbers are considerably lower at the two independent schools than those at OPHS, so staff members teach more than just one subject in a cross-curricular style.

For our English and our History, its tied pretty closely together, so for example when were studying the Middle Ages in History, well be reading Dantes Inferno,De Long said.

Students attending the two independent schools may sometimes opt to take a class at OPHS. They are also welcome to participate in all school activities held at Oak Park High, including games, school dances and other activities. The one exception is the time during Senior Week,in which the activities held are solely for students attending OPHS. Many students will also take classes with OPIS alongside a community college, earning both high school and college credits.

If you take a class at Moorpark College and put it on your transcript in lieu of, say, your English class, we would count that as our English class here, where Oak Park High School would not do that,OPIS and Oak View Principal Stuart McGugan said.

Junior and OPIS attendee Noa Greenberg notes the work required in attending an independent school instead of a traditional one, even though she doesnt go to school every day.

You have to be strict with yourself. Its really hard to keep up with my work, and, you and me, we all procrastinate,Greenberg said.

Each student has an allotted time frame to meet with their teacher during each week, which varies from person to person. While the traditional public high school experience constitutes daily social interaction through various classes and passing periods, students attending OPIS and Oak View spend the majority of their time working alone or with a single teacher.

I think we know our students really well; when youre in a traditional school and you have so many kids every period, hopefully teachers will know all of their studentsnames, but they might not,Lyons said. They might not know anything about that student, other than the work that they see. We know our students on a deeper level, which is good because that motivates them to want to do better in school and take more care into their work because they have to sit in front of us one-on-one like a business meeting and show everything they have or dont have.

OPIS Student Grace Fraser

Junior and dance team member Grace Fraser attends OPIS so she can pursue a career in dance. Since OPIS students are permitted to partake in OPHS student activities, the independent school benefited her busy schedule. This solution permits her to commit more time to her practices and competitions, while pursuing an active education.

I am a dancer and since my schedule changes so much OPIS was the only real option that I had,Fraser wrote to the Talon. I wanted to be able to go to [Los Angeles] every week to dance as much as I could but I also wanted a social life and to go to football games and school dances and OPIS gives me the opportunity to have it all.

Fraser said its easier to manage time at the independent school.

Since there is so much freedom with this program I am able to do just about anything. I can change up my routine to fit what my day has planned. OPIS allows my schedule to be extremely flexible,Fraser wrote.

Fraser said going to OPIS entails something different for each student who passes through.

I have been dancing seriously for almost six years, so the word normalis foreign to me. I never grew up with tons of friends inviting me places or going to summer camps because my friends knew that I had dance and that it was my priority,Fraser said. It all depends on how you schedule and how hard you work.

Overall, Fraser said she has learned the real meaning of being an independent young woman.

It has helped me to become self-sufficient in everything I do and it has given me a sense of what being an adult is like,Fraser said.