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Barcelona Elementary to Share Campus with Charter Middle School

Twelve parents from the elementary school spoke directly to the Capistrano Unified School District board of trustees, asking for a different location for the new charter school.

To the shock of dozens of parents,  will have to share its campus next year with a new charter school, the Capistrano Unified School District’s board of trustees decided Monday.

“I think they’ve made it very difficult for us to [peacefully coexist]," said Barcelona Hills mom Debbie Lackie after the unanimous decision. “I think they made up their minds before anyone got here tonight.”

 students, who will range from kindergartners to eighth-graders, will occupy more than half of the elementary school campus in Mission Viejo. The trustees directed staffers to consider configurations that wouldn’t have Barcelona students surrounded on all sides by the Oxford program.

Parents at Barcelona first heard of the district’s plans to house Oxford, a new charter school the , at their campus during a PTA meeting in April. At the time, the proposal was to share space with Oxford’s kindergarten-through-fifth-grade program.

But last week, parents of 34 special-needs students received notice from the school district that they would have to change schools to accommodate Oxford’s middle-school program as well.

Parent Pat DeLorenzo said his third-grader, who suffers from a seizure disorder and is autistic, has already changed schools four times in four years.

“She’s a creature of routine. If Dad helps Mom fold laundry, that causes a meltdown in my house,” DeLorenzo said.

Twelve parents spoke to the board directly and urged them to keep searching for a different solution. They complained that district officials excluded their participation and broke promises that it would not displace a single student.

“There’s been a distinct lack of candor by the district,” said parent Michael Daugherty. To give Oxford students 13 of the school’s classrooms is a “ridiculously high” number that will turn the Barcelona kids into “second-class students in their own school.”  

The ensuing discussion among trustees and the district staff was often punctuated by outbursts from the parents in the audience. When Trustee John Alpay asked if Barcelona would have enough space to accommodate the 450 Oxford students and all of Barcelona’s, Ron Lebs, the district’s deputy superintendent for business and support services said yes, but parents yelled, "No!"

“This is a meeting held in public, not a public meeting,” admonished Vice President Gary Pritchard, who facilitates the meetings.

Besides grouping Oxford’s classrooms together—even if that means moving Barcelona’s library—school board members said they were concerned that younger Barcelona children would have to share bathroom facilities with Oxford middle schoolers.

Jason Watts, director of educational services for Oxford, said he’s sure his school is flexible about the location of Oxford classrooms.

Superintendent Joseph Farley said some of the parent comments were unfair.

“We’ve been in negotiations with Oxford for literally six months. Requirements and plans changed day to day, week to week and month to month,” he said. “This has been a moving target for many, many months … Some of the commentary is not sensitive to the changing dynamics.”

Lebs cautioned the board that if it did not approve a facility for Oxford, which by law is permitted to use district facilities, Oxford could ultimately file a lawsuit against the district.

Protest from parents at Barcelona Hills wasn't the only demonstration of displeasure at Monday's meeting.

Parents from Ambuehl Elementary complained during the open-comments portion of the meeting that they don't like a plan released just last week that would have them . 

"High school students should not be part of an elementary school," said mom Carrie Weeks. "It's really not acceptable."

Bruce Becker, a member of the school's site committee, said his group wasn't even notified. "Why do we have to do this very quickly? It just doesn't make sense," he said. "I really think better choices can be found elsewhere."

Because the subject was not a part of the regular agenda, board members could not take action.

In other news, the board:

  • Approved a $12-million bid to build a theater at . Open since 1977, the school has never had an actual theater. Play productions and concerts are usually staged in an indoor amphitheater surrounded by classrooms, lockers and offices known as "the mall."
  • Heard a report about the budget. It will use $2 million originally earmarked for maintenance projects to balance next year's budget.
  • Heard a report about the new requirement to make sure parents know fees for academic and extracurricular activities are voluntary, ensuring a free education for every student.
  • Approved the continuation of a pilot program that offers skateboarding as a PE class at . 
  • . He currently serves as a principal in Anaheim.
  • Postponed a decision as to whether the district should pay for an amid allegations that the board violated the Brown Act.
Proud Mom June 16, 2011 at 01:16 AM
There is nothing worse than displacing children who need continuity. This is shameful. However, please do not blame the OPA parents who were given this school site by the district. Unfortunately, the writing has been on the wall for awhile. I'm sure several schools were looked at. We will never know the real reason why Barcelona was chosen. We can only guess. However, with lowering test scores for the last few years, lower enrollment, an older school in which no money has been put into (like it has been at Reilly and Castille) - which means higher maintenance costs - and possibly the highest paid teachers in the district - we can only assume it all came down to finances. It always comes down to money, which is unfortunate, but true. Dr. Farley did mention that there are a few schools with low enrollment which will be addressed in 2012. What does that mean? Possible school closures for 2012? When asked at the Town Hall Meeting about Barcelona's future in 2012, he just said that we are working with the here and now. He did not address that question. What does that tell you? Everyone, including those in favor of the charter, have been saddened by the SDC children being moved. It is something no one wants. My heart breaks for the children involved. It is known that Reilly has an amazing program at its site and I can only pray that for once, your child will not be moved again.
Proud Mom June 16, 2011 at 01:22 AM
As I've stated in another blog, I wish the principal of Barcelona would've fought for Barcelona sooner (when the rumors of its closure started years ago) because maybe, quite possibly, Barcelona would not be in this situation. A school with higher enrollment, higher test scores, maybe a magnet school - anything which would have the district look the other way - would not have been looked at to share with OPA. I am sorry you are hurting. I can't even imagine what you are going through. Please know many people are praying for all the families involved. You have every right to be upset, but please do not take it out on the OPA parents.
Katie Davies June 17, 2011 at 07:16 PM
My kids will be attending Barcelona for the '11-'12 school year. It saddens me to hear my 2nd grader tell me about all the children she knows going to Castille next year instead. I understand some parents concerns and I even understand some parents fear about having a K-8 share our school which is a K-5. MY choice is to continue on and to support Barcelona, till the end if I have to. I am VERY proud to be a Barcelona Mom. I attended this school for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade when I was younger and I personally chose to have my children attend this school instead of their own neighborhood school. It saddens me to hear that some parents are not respecting the choices that other parents have made for their children. I would hate it if my children or myself were treated differently for the choices I make on their behalf. I have heard about neighbors turning on neighbors and friends turning on friends. Even though I personally have not witnessed any of this hatred I would hope that people would realize that it is not OUR fault this is happening to Barcelona. No matter if you choose to send your child to a charter school or a neighborhood school the bad guy in this situation is Dr. Farley. From the get go he lied to us! From the get go he treated us poorly and put us against each other. I would hope that instead of running, parents would stand and fight. But that’s only one Moms opinion. Believe me when I tell you, that I will not hold it against you if you have a different opinion.
Proud Mom June 17, 2011 at 08:49 PM
You are absolutely correct. It comes down to respecting others and their choices. Each and every one of us is in a different situation and we should not be judged by our decisions. You are 100% correct. Thank you!!
Mandy Nygren June 24, 2011 at 03:45 AM
Ladies and gentlemen it could be far worse than this. A charter's "inability to just get along" actually lead to the closure of Park Oaks Elementary School. http://www.toacorn.com/news/2011-03-17/Front_Page/Park_Oaks_gets_pegged_for_closure.html

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