The Orange County Board of Education signed off on an appeal from California Republic Leadership Academy, a new charter school that will open within the Capistrano Unified School District.
The OCBE approved the appeal on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The new school sought an appeal from county trustees after the CUSD Board of Trustees rendered split votes on the charter petition back in November.
An exact location and opening date have not yet been named. The petitioners are aiming to use existing campus space under a state law called Proposition 39, though where CRLA opens under that route is ultimately up to CUSD.
CRLA intends to serve students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade within an initial charter term of 2023 to 2028. CRLA Board Chair Kevin Pratt, a San Clemente parent instrumental in bringing forth the petition, has said the school would focus on classical education, American history and fostering respect between teachers and students.
CRLA will also require student uniforms, not allow children to use smartphones during school hours and encourage servant leadership through the use of community mentors.
Though Orange County Department of Education staff recommended the OCBE conditionally approve the charter provided the school addressed identified issues, the county trustees unanimously approved the charter as written and without conditions.
“Based on information gathered throughout the entire review process, which included a clarification meeting held with petitioners on Dec. 20, Orange County Department of Education staff is recommending approval with conditions of the California Republic Leadership Academy petition,” OCDE Charter Schools Director Aracely Chastain said.
Deficiencies in the petition can be “adequately addressed” through an agreement with CRLA leaders, Chastain said.
The OCDE will still alert CRLA if they see a teacher does not have proper credentials.
“There are elements of the petition that require further information in order to be considered reasonably comprehensive or to comply with current law,” Chastain said. “The petition submitted only samples of curriculum in scope and sequence and the petitioner has stated curriculum would not be developed prior to approval.”
The petition as submitted also did not adequately address English learner students or how students could become mentors as anticipated, Chastain continued.
Gary Davis, the vice president of Civic and Political Affairs for the California Charter Schools Association, and a vocal advocate for CRLA, said they are “excited” about the approval and hoped to make OCDE proud.
“Staff did point out a handful of things that, in some cases, there was some confusion,” Davis said. “In other cases, we can certainly provide clarification. We did submit a letter that went item by item and offered some solutions on how we can go about that.”
OCBE Trustee Mari Barke said CRLA will provide a “unique opportunity in the community.”
“I saw your presentation here. I saw it in San Juan Capistrano,” Barke said to the CRLA petitioners. “I’m very impressed. I know some of your board members. I love the curriculum. I know Gary has a wealth of experience bringing a charter to life because I’ve seen him do it before.”
CUSD staff previously recommended CRLA’s petition be denied, in part, because of concerns about the school’s fiscal projections and expected solvency.
OCDE had no such concerns, Chastain said.
“Obviously, when a charter school’s starting, everything is based on whether they meet their enrollment projections—so we’re looking at their budget, assuming they’re going to meet the enrollment projections they’ve given us,” Chastain said. “Everything appears to be pretty conservative. Everything is based on market costs.”
The school’s projected reserves exceed those of similarly sized schools, Chastain said. A letter of intent from their lender indicated the lender would be willing to give CRLA an initial loan of $600,000, Chastain said.
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