Cypress Academy will become the Hesperia Unified School District's first choice school next school year.

The current sixth-grade only school will serve students from kindergarten through sixth grade and add an arts-based focus to the standard curriculum. The school will also get a name change, becoming Cypress School of the Arts when it opens in August 2008.

"We're not trying to be better," Principal Scott Sheffield said Thursday, "We're trying to be different. We're just trying to give parents an option, a different option than we have now."

The school is expected to serve 780 students, with first preference being given to students in the area around Hesperia Junior High School.

"If you're in our school from kindergarten through sixth grade, you will learn to play the piano, read and speak Spanish and have a working knowledge of a selected curriculum."

The school will teach students piano using electronic keyboards and teach Spanish using the commercially available Rosetta Stone software, among other means.

"We're going to do what is called Meet the Masters, which is an art history program," Sheffield said. "They're going to be exposed to the fine arts."

The school will also have a band program.

"It's an all-around, well-rounded curriculum."

In addition to changes in the curriculum, the Cypress academy will also undergo some changes.

"On my wall, I have the [original K-6 plan]. Basically, all that's required to convert us over is the addition of the K-compound," Sheffield said. The compound is a kindergarten building, featuring restrooms directly accessible from the classrooms, and a smaller enclosed playground.

"It'll be done in December, but that's why we're [using] the 12 classrooms directly adjacent to us at Hesperia Junior for the 6th grade classrooms."

The changes at Cypress will also affect other area schools: Mesquite Trails Elementary School will become a K-6 school, instead of a K-5 school, starting in August 2008 and Mission Crest Elementary School will become a K-6 school in January 2009, once three additional classrooms are built at the school's new campus.

Expanding Cypress Academy to Cypress School of the Arts will cost the HUSD $4,136,384, according to a staff report presented to the school board on Monday and the additional modular classrooms at Mission Crest will cost $1,274,654. Both expenditures will come from the district's facilities budget.

"We have not advertised, we have not said one word, but we have received our 15th call to be put on an interest list," Sheffield said.

There will be informational meetings about the Cypress School of the Arts on March 10, 12, 25, 27 and 29 at the school, which is located at 10365 Cypress Avenue. Call 949-2596 for more information.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.