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NEW SCHOOL SPECIALIZES IN ART, SCIENCE; WALNUT CANYON MAGNET IS `FULLY WIRED' INTO THE INTERNET.

Byline: Paul O'Donoghue Staff Writer

With its art deco curves and squares set on a hill overlooking the region, the new $7 million Walnut Canyon School, specializing in the arts and technology, is sure to inspire.

``The school is the latest in technology. We will be fully wired,'' said Principal Teresa ``Teri'' Williams. ``And we have a beautiful view out as well.''

A stone's throw north of City Hall, the elementary school on Casey Road, which is the Moorpark Unified School District's first and only magnet facility, is slated to open Sept.8, a year later than planned. Construction problems caused by El Nino rains and wrangling over a traffic light at Casey Road and Walnut Canyon Road delayed the project and frustrated parents.

But things are now looking up for the 11.6-acre campus that will welcome 560 kindergarten through fifth-grade students who will learn everything from painting and music to drama and the intricacies of the Internet, said parent Jennifer Weissenborn.

``I think it's wonderful and the campus is just wonderful,'' said Weissenborn, whose daughter Katie is about to enter the third grade. ``I'm very excited about the bilingual program,'' Weissenborn said about the program where children will learn in both Spanish and English. ``That's very good for the kids.''

She said, ``I think everyone is going to be very excited and positive, and I think it's going to be a great year for them.''

In the staff parking lot, about 10 cars on the pristine asphalt signaled the presence of teachers and staff who've been busy for more than a week setting up their classrooms and getting organized.

Sitting on the floor of her classroom amid piles of books and class materials, third-grade teacher Willa Greeley was busy tucking texts away neatly into white cupboards.

``Right now, I'm trying to organize my things. And then I'll put up the

bulletin board,'' said Greeley, who spent the summer taking a course on teaching teachers in Ojai and a course on music at the Music Center in Los Angeles.

As a result of the course in Ojai, she'll teach other teachers at the school the art of using digital cameras that can be hooked up to computers, and computer programs such as one that uses graphics and text to aid classroom instruction.

``It's going to be exciting,'' Greeley said. ``It's a new school.''

For the past year, Walnut Canyon's teachers and students have been based at Peach Hill, Arroyo West, Mountain Meadows and Flory schools, pending the opening of the new campus.

Inside the main 31,000-square-foot building, portholes in doors, squared windows and trim painted in blue and teal produce a pleasant atmosphere characteristic of the Art Deco style.

Facilities inside the building include 20 classrooms, a library with 12 brand-new Compaq Presario computers and a lounge - all branching out from a large multipurpose room for concerts, assemblies, plays and other gatherings, and a reception area and administrative offices.

Williams, 47, has been a teacher in the Moorpark Unified School District since 1975 and was previously principal of Flory.

She is glad to have the past year of waiting over. ``Hopefully, I will have a less stressful year,'' she said with a laugh.

But she is pleased with the way the school has worked out.

``It's more than I could ever have hoped for,'' said Williams. ``I want to be able to educate children that are proficient in the basic skills of reading, writing and math, as well as give them extended opportunities in the arts and technology.''

Pauline Pittman, president of the Walnut Canyon Parent-Teacher Association, praised Williams for helming the school through a difficult period.

``Teri is just an outstanding principal. I've just enjoyed working with her,'' said Pittman, whose two girls, fifth-grader Stephanie and first-grader Christina, will attend the school.

``I'm excited about the school's emphasis on the performance arts and technology, mostly because performance arts, music and technology is proven to raise achievement and raise the child's self-esteem, and I'm really excited about that.''

Outside the main building are eight portable classrooms, two basketball courts, two tennis courts and other play areas, a dining area, parking lots and the old Moorpark Memorial High School Auditorium.

It was the old auditorium's art deco style - although the outside has been refurbished, the inside is unusable with warped flooring and wrecked seating - that inspired the campus theme, officials said.

School board President David Pollock said the district is trying to secure a $1.5 million grant to fix up the interior. If that happens, Williams would like to use the auditorium for school performances and classes.

The school also has preschool and after-school facilities where, for $209 a month, children can take three classes, including homework and two other subjects.

The school's only drawbacks, both Pittman and Weissenborn said, are twofold.

One is the lack of playground equipment for the children because of a shortage of money.

And both also expressed reservations about the fact that the traffic signal doesn't have a right-turn arrow for northbound traffic turning into Casey Road from Walnut Canyon Road.

But that hasn't stopped Pittman's kids from enjoying the school when they've tagged along with her during visits.

``They're so excited,'' she said. ``It's such a beautiful campus and they just can't wait to start school.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: (Color) Walnut Canyon school Principal Teri Williams sits in front of the school's new auditorium.

Tina Gerson/Sta`ff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 30, 1999
Words:908
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