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School board to decide on charter school this month

Locals weigh in on what charter schools have to offer
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Union School District may be opening a new charter school — adding to the more than 300 charter schools opened or converted from existing schools in California since 2006. The district held public comment on the Canyon Vista Community Charter School petition at Wednesday night’s board meeting. If approved by the board of trustees at the next meeting on March 28, the kindergarten through fifth grade charter school would open at the Alta Vista Education Center. By its third year in operation the charter school is expected to generate over $1.2 million in state funding, of which $696,000 would be the ending fund balance after expenditures, according to the terms of the Canyon Vista Community Charter. Some local elementary school parents say they want the expanded choices offered by charter schools, while others say they are pleased with the education their students receive at traditional schools. A local principal said making the transition to a charter school has allowed for more state funding and the addition of many technology-based programs. One board member said while the district’s traditional schools are some of the best in the area, he is excited about offering families different educational options. Parent’s perspective- Traditional or charter? Nicole Luna, of Auburn, said if a new charter school were to open she would strongly consider sending her two daughters Jasmine and Olivia there. They currently attend Skyridge School and are on the waiting list for Bowman School, which is also a charter. “I think there is more opportunity for them to get a better education,” Luna said. “Right now at Skyridge it is over packed.” Frank Fagundes has four children that attend Skyridge and he said he is impressed with the education they are receiving. “I think Skyridge almost operates itself like a private school. I can’t even believe how much pride and organization Skyridge has,” Fagundes said. “We are very impressed with Skyridge and we love it. My kids are happy and I wouldn’t want them anywhere else.” He said under certain circumstances he can see why some parents would want to send their children to a charter school, but believes a traditional school is the best setting for his own children. Vicky Moore’s grandchildren attend Skyridge and she said it has a long history of being a good school in the area. She said she isn’t sure if it is better than a charter school, but still believes her granddaughter is getting an excellent education. “I think Skyridge is one of the best schools in the area. My son went here years ago and now my granddaughter is in second grade,” Moore said. “I think the teachers really care.” Differences with charter schools Since the transitioning of E.V. Cain Middle School to a charter school, Principal Randy Ittner said the school has received more funding and been able to offer more robust technology programs. “We get $200 more per seventh and eighth grade students (per year),” Ittner said. “I think we have really pushed using technology in the classroom for presentations, for student projects, being able to change a student’s schedule. If they want two periods of home school and three periods of a class here, we can do that.” Ittner said he believes the state pays charter schools more money per student to encourage the opening of charter schools. “They wanted to really push junior high schools to become charter schools and if you do they will give you more per students and more grants are available,” Ittner said. Like E.V. Cain, the Canyon Vista would also be a charter with its emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Board Member weighs in Daniel Berlant, Auburn Union School District board member, said the proposed charter K-5 school wouldn’t get more money per student, but funding would be based on current year enrollment, rather than the prior year’s enrollment. If the school does open, he said new teachers are likely to be hired. State funding would cover those costs. If any current teachers transfer to Canyon Vista, they will retain all of the terms of their current contracts with the district, according to the charter. He said while the district’s traditional schools, like Skyridge, perform highly, the main goal of the charter is to offer more options to parents. “It actually has one of the highest test scores in our region. We provide a good education for the traditional setting, but what a large group of parents want is an alternative option, providing different teaching methods, whether it is through more hands-on or visual. A lot of private schools have offered those for years. This is something we have finally been able to make financially feasible for us.” He said the added spending flexibility afforded to charter schools is another benefit, but the district will not be making a profit off the new charter school. He said many of the parents that may have left the district when Alta Vista closed may come back because of the charter format. “It’s not a money maker by any means. The financial driver is that it is feasible for us. We just couldn’t afford it. But now because of that flexibility in funding, it is financially feasible. Alta Vista we closed many years ago and many of those parents left to go to other schools because they no longer felt there was a small school environment. We want to bring the people in our community back to our schools.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.