By Emily Rasmussen

Parents of the Rancho Mission Viejo and Esencia neighborhoods were upset at the Capistrano Unified School District’s (CUSD) vote on March 14 to open Esencia K-8 School this fall as a K-5 instead of a K-8.

The sign in front of Esencia K-8. Photo: Courtesy of Gina Urquizu
The sign in front of Esencia K-8. Photo: Courtesy of Gina Urquizu

Esencia, a new campus at 5 Aprender Street, Rancho Mission Viejo that has been in the works for years, will start as a K-5 for the 2018-2019 school year. The plan is to grow into a K-6 for the 2019-2020 school year, adding a grade each year.

CUSD board and staff said that this was the original plan; however, families who bought homes in the area claim that they feel misled, due to the school’s official title remaining ‘Esencia K-8’ on their website and signs around the campus that still advertise a K-8 school.

The unanimous vote by the CUSD board to open as a K-5 instead of a K-8 brought outrage to several parents of children who are either going to middle school this fall or are already going to middle school. Some parents said that they wouldn’t have bought homes in the area if they were told Esencia would open as a K-5.

In past CUSD meetings, the school district found numbers that estimated there would not be enough students to fill a middle school to properly fill a teaching staff. Parents in the Esencia disputed the numbers and said there are many families who did not properly disclose their addresses in fear of losing their schools of choice.

“The round-up and projections failed to capture dozens of students who were not willing to risk losing their enrollment at Ladera Ranch Middle School, as well as any students who are finishing out this year at another CUSD school and would be forced to attend Los Flores Elementary School immediately if found-out,” said Shauna Mangan, parent and resident near Esencia in a Facebook post.

Other parents at the March 14 meeting voiced their concerns, with one parent threatening a lawsuit.

“It’s about the numbers,” Trustee Gila Jones said.

At the meeting, Trustee Patricia Holloway suggested that CUSD should consider putting up a different sign that does not say K-8 on it.

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