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Academy For Accelerated Students May Open In Fall

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Families seeking accelerated classes for their middle and high school students -- beyond what's available within Central School District -- may have not have to look outside the cities for such opportunities in the near future.

Eric Olsen, a Monmouth real estate developer, wants to create an afterschool program for young people that focuses on advanced literature and reading curriculum.

Tentative plans are to have the program in place and capable of enrolling students for the 2006-07 school year, Olsen said.

The "enhancement or preparatory academy" would serve children grades 7-12, and would be a not-for-profit entity, funded by student tuition and grants, Olsen said.

Olsen wants to collaborate with the district and has met with school board members about possibly housing his program in local schools.

He may eventually construct a building for the academy, offer fine arts, foreign language classes and college prep courses if the program grows, he said.

The idea originated after Central was forced to make deep cuts to staff and classes at several schools -- including Advanced Placement testing at Central High and foreign language classes at Talmadge Middle School -- because of budget problems a few years ago, Olsen said.

"I think the district is doing all it can with the funds is has," he said. "The idea here is to compliment our schools."

One of the challenges was developing a concept that wouldn't siphon students away from the high and middle schools and reduce Central's overall funding, he said.

The district receives roughly $5,100 in state approriations per student.

The program will initially operate after school, Olsen said. Eventually, students could be allowed to split their days between their normal school and the academy. Neither scenario would cost the district funding.

Olsen said total enrollment at the school could number from 100 to 150 children. A scholarship program would be structured for low-income families, he also said.

The start-up cost for the academy at about $100,000, Olsen said. A board of directors will oversee the program. Olsen, Caroline Olsen, his mother, and Bob Ayres of the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University will comprise the inaugural board.

Olsen said he plans to hire three certified teachers, and is consulting with school administrators for recommendations.

One of the benefits of an academy is that it may persuade parents considering sending children to schools outside the district -- private or public -- for accelerated coursework.

Central superitendent Joseph Hunter said that the district's total enrollment grew by about 120 students this year. It will grow by about 80 children annually during the next 10 years, according to a recently completed enrollment forecast.

John Oberst of Monmouth said there are families in the community which have sent kids to different schools because of the lack of accelerated programs at the middle and high schools.

The father of two elementary school children, Oberst said he would like his kids to remain in the district but admits to considering the private school option.

"Kids are coming out of Central with good basics, but that said they have crowded classrooms and an inability to go into subjects at a greater depth at the high school," he said.

"Beause so many resources are being put into bringing children up to speed," he also said, referencing No Child Left Behind legislation, "there's nothing left for students that could benefit from higher powered coursework."

Talmadge principal Beau Horn said he supported the proposed academy.

"If you were a kid with special talents in writing or language, wouldn't it be nice to have the opportunity to explore that in more detail?" he said.

"We'll be getting the best of both worlds, giving our children more opportunities and not losing them to neighboring districts or private schools."

For more information: e-mail Eric Olsen at eric@olsencommunities.com.

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