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Trend toward charters makes for competitive school market

School offers individualized instruction, director says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Although charter schools provide competition to traditional public schools, some parents say they enjoy the flexibility these schools offer their children. “There is movement toward charter schools,” said Michele Schuetz, superintendent of the Auburn Union School District. “It’s become a very competitive market for different reasons. Some charter schools offer things as far as equipment and financial gain that public schools can’t.” E.V. Cain Charter Middle School is a public school in the Auburn Union School District and just finished its first year with its STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, charter status. E.V. Cain Principal Randy Ittner said enrollment is going up at the school. Last year there were 741 students and there are 752 enrolled so far for the upcoming year. Schuetz said the school is attracting families from other districts, and its charter status has allowed it to beef up its extracurricular and sports activities. Ittner said because of the STEM emphasis of the charter, the school has been able to get 30 new laptops and video cameras for English and elective classes, and is hoping to purchase some iPads and SmartBoards as well. Ittner said the charter funding has allowed them to begin a number of clubs including multimedia, video production, gardening and science. The school also is hoping to begin a reptile club this year. The variety of attendance options are new additions to the school as a result of the charter, Schuetz and Ittner said. Schuetz said students can be solely home-schooled, take some classes at the school or be completely school-based. If they are enrolled in the home school component, they can still participate in activities and sports at the campus. “Maybe they are a little outside the box and they want to learn in a little different way,” Ittner said about the schedule possibilities. Schuetz said it’s hard to determine what the enrollment loss is to traditional public schools as a result of charter schools.” “One of the things is we don’t always know who we don’t have,” she said. “If they have been at a charter school and haven’t enrolled in our school system, we don’t know they are there. So, yes I’m sure charter schools are impacting the districts. I couldn’t give you any numbers.” Another charter option available to local families is the Community Options for Resources in Education, or CORE, Placer Public Charter School. The school has sites located in Colfax, Loomis, Nevada City and Galt. CORE Placer was founded in 2008 after it split from CORE at the Camptonville Academy. Kathryn Peak, school director for CORE Placer, said the school is sponsored by Colfax Elementary School District and falls under the Placer County Office of Education. It includes grades K-12. “The difference between CORE Placer Charter School and a brick-and-mortar public school … (is) we tailor the education to the individual student,” Peak said. “At a traditional public school, it’s a one size fits all.” Peak said more charter schools are cropping up in California, with a total of 912 to date Peak said traditional public schools have their efficiencies, but are not always right for students because not everyone learns the same. CORE Placer offers students a completely home school based program, a completely onsite program and everything in between, Peak said. Peak said the school also offers extracurricular activities such as field trips, ski days, art exhibits, theater arts presentations, a chess club, volunteer work, yearbook and more. Peak said she expects the total enrollment for CORE Placer to be 260 students this year. Colfax resident Sandra Liu has a son and daughter currently attending the Colfax site and said the school allows her family to participate in other activities as well as traveling. “For us as a family our kids are very active and very involved in lots of sports and music, and it gives us a lot of flexibility,” Liu said. “In my opinion it’s a very personalized learning. The children and the families have a lot of flexibility. There is always easy access to parents, other parents and teachers.” Colfax resident Peggy Hardesty’s two older children graduated from CORE Placer and her youngest child is currently attending. Hardesty said she wants to clear up the misconception that students who are home-schooled are not socialized, because her children receive comments to the contrary. Hardesty said she enjoys being able to control the quality of education her son receives and that taxpayer money is going toward specialized educations. “We can put that money to use for what fits the individual child,” she said. Gary Yee, principal of Bowman Charter School in Auburn, the only school in the Ackerman Charter School District, said the school’s enrollment last year was 520, but he expects it to be about 540-545 this year. Yee said there is not currently a home school component to Bowman, but the school does have choices for parents and is financially sturdy enough to keep its extracurricular activities in place. Although offering choices to parents is a good thing, there is a chance it could go too far, Yee said. “The danger is that in trying to accommodate a variety of requests it kind of dilutes your main objective, and that is to serve the core demographics,” he said. “So, it’s a balancing act.” Yee said he thinks the reason people come to Bowman is not only because of its charter status, but also because of the history and meaning it has in Auburn. “I think it reflects on what this school means to the community, what kind of reputation it has enjoyed over many years,” he said. “And we really aspire to continue that tradition. At the same time we remain innovative and creative.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- Some local charter school options E.V. Cain Charter Middle School: Call (530) 823-6106 or visit auburn.k12.ca.us/ev-cain CORE Placer Charter School: Call (530) 346-8340 or visit coreplacer.org Bowman Charter School: Call (530) 885-1974 or visit ackerman.k12.ca.us