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Charter school takes next step toward approval

By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Rocklin’s proposed charter school is moving forward with plans for approval. Despite being previously denied twice by the Rocklin Unified School District and once by the Placer County Board of Education, the proposed seventh through 12th-grade charter school was recommended for approval by the Advisory Commiss-ion on Charter Schools. Western Sierra Coll-egiate Academy is a proposed continuation of the existing Rocklin Academy, a kindergarten through sixth-grade charter school. During last week’s ACCS meeting, the board voted unanimously to recommend the California State Board of Education’s approval for WSCA. WSCA will be up for approval at the March 11 or 12 SBE meeting. If approved, the charter school will operate as a public charter school for the 2009-10 school year in Rocklin. One of the concerns RUSD has regarding the charter school is what school officials have found to be a lack of need within the district. “To suggest that we need a college preparatory school in Rocklin is to ignore the facts,” RUSD Superintendent Kevin Brown said. Ten of Rocklin’s 14 schools are California Distinguished Schools, Granite Oaks Middle School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School and Rocklin High School was recently rated as one of the top 500 high schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Brown said. “Its program (WSCA) simply duplicates what already exists, yet it will have a tremendous negative impact on the RUSD,” Brown said. WSCA spokesperson and Rocklin Academy Executive Director David Patterson disagrees. Patterson said the charter school would offer student opportunities not yet found within the district – one of them being choice. “There’s a strong support of choice,” Patterson said. WCSA’s classes would consist of no more than 90 students per grade level, Patterson said, and would have an A- through G-based curriculum, which gets students on track for entering the UC and CSU systems. Patterson also said WSCA students would graduate with the greatest available choices – from Sierra College, the UC system or even the military. Another issue Brown said the district has struggled with in regards to the charter school approval is money. Brown said that if 350-500 students enroll in WSCA, the Rocklin district could lose approximately $2.5 million in state revenue, which could significantly hurt the district, placed on top of the state cutbacks. Patterson sees it differently. The state gives an allotted amount of money to the district for each student, Patterson said. The money wouldn’t be leaving the district, but instead follow the students that choose to attend the charter school. Another challenge the school and district have been faced with is location of WSCA students, if approved. Although Patterson said facility sites have nothing to do with a school’s approval, it still remains an issue. Patterson said the students need to be placed at a single, continuous site – a school cannot run efficiently at two sites, he said. At a recent school board meeting, Rocklin district board members denied approval for WSCA’s request to be housed at either to Rocklin’s two high schools. Instead, the district sent back a preliminary draft offer to house the school’s seventh- through eighth-grade students at Spring View Middle School and grades 9-12 at Rocklin High School. If approved at the March meeting, WSCA will open for the 2009-10 school year, Patterson said. “It’s been very divisive for this community, for this battle of choice,” he said. “We’re operating with the full intension we will be approved.” For more information, go to RUSD Web site at www.rocklin.k12.ca.us and the WSCA Web site at www.wscacademy.org. Will Western Sierra Collegiate Academy be approved? Attend the California State Board of Education meeting March 11 or 12 1430 N St., Room 1101, Sacramento Contact Lauren Weber at laurenw@goldcountrymedia.com.