Charter School Law Leaves SCV Districts In Limbo
Corrects the source of documents
Despite not having a permitted site, Einstein Academy plans to open its kindergarten to sixth grade school in the Santa Clarita Valley on Sept. 9, according to the school’s website.
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Einstein Academy’s school year is expected to end June 11.
Officials with the Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences have said they’re planning to open a K-6 location at 25300 Rye Canyon Road.
Construction and work at the location was halted by Santa Clarita officials, who said the work was being done without the proper permits.
City officials have said that the earliest the site could be approved is Sept. 17, when the city’s Planning Commission is next scheduled to meet.
Einstein Academy’s school year is expected to end June 11, according to the same school site calendar.
The school is planning to open a day camp for science, technology, engineering and mathematics on Aug. 21, according to Einstein Academy Executive Director Jeffrey Shapiro.
That day camp won’t count toward the school’s state-mandated 180 days of operation, he said, but rather was a bonus program the school wanted to offer students.
The Rye Canyon Road site, which has been chartered by the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District, will only have 10 students from the AADUSD district at the school, said Brent Woodard, superintendent for the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District.
That number was stipulated in an agreement with the charter school that was approved May 17.
The site has received 303 requests for Saugus Union School District students; 41 students for Sulphur Springs School District students; 70 students from Newhall; and 32 students from CUSD.
SUSD Superintendent Joan Lucid said if parents had any concerns about the K-6 charter school because of the city’s recent move, there would always be spots available in SUSD.
“I feel badly for our families and our children who really belong in school right now. Our doors are always open to every single one of our Saugus (USD) families,” Lucid said. “Any of those parents who have those second thoughts, come on back, we’re ready for you, we want your children to have the best education they can possibly have.”
However, the demand for Einstein Academy schools is why his charter school model has been so successful, Shapiro said.
The site has been the subject of controversy for several months, with CUSD Superintendent Jim Gibson protesting Einstein Academy officials for trying to open a school within CUSD boundaries without properly notifying Gibson, as state law dictates.
Documents indicate the 25300 Rye Canyon Road site was looked at as early as Feb. 20; however, Shapiro denied it was affiliated with Einstein Academy.
Shapiro notified Saugus Union School District officials on May 16 that he intended to put a K-6 site within their boundaries.
Charter school law, according to Education Code 47605, sets forth the guidelines for a charter school to establish a school outside of the chartering district’s boundaries.
“If the school district within the jurisdiction of which the charter school proposes to operate is notified in advance of the charter petition approval, the county superintendent of schools and the Superintendent are notified of the location of the charter school before it commences operations, and either of the following circumstances exists: a) The school has attempted to locate a single site or facility to house the entire program, but a site or facility is unavailable in the area in which the school chooses to locate; b) the site is needed for temporary use during a construction or expansion project,” according to the state’s Education Code.
The problem facing local school district officials is the lack of clarity in the guidelines or is a specified recourse even if one does violate the law.
“It doesn’t have a specific remedy,” Gibson said. “There are many laws like that, but the bottom line for the county or state is they can hold our funding (if a school district violated Education Code).”
Gibson said his district stands to lose about $160,000 in Average Daily Attendance funding for students who were leaving his school for Einstein Academy. ADA is the state formula that determines what a school gets for each of its enrollments.
However, the state’s Education Code doesn’t spell out similar guidelines for charter schools.
“I can confirm that we’ve received a (protest) letter,” said Kostas Kalaitzides, Los Angeles County Office of Education spokesman, adding that county officials did have procedures in place for addressing letters such as the one Gibson sent. “Both the district and the charter school need to follow the law, as set by the state of California.”
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