Charter school petitions withdrawn for now

Parents now challenge to find solutions
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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It’s back to the drawing board for the Loomis Union School District as petitions for two charter schools have been withdrawn. The public hearing slated for April 16 was also canceled. The district is challenging parent/teacher task forces at each site to generate ideas and solutions on how to deal with budget cuts, declining enrollment and academic/instruction, along with site-specific issues. District administrators recently withdrew their petitions for two charter schools for the 2009-2010 school year that would have been located on the Franklin Elementary and Loomis Grammar School campuses. The schools would have offered the International Baccalaureate program. The plans for the charter schools met with both support and resistance from parents and teachers. “At Franklin, there’s a desire on the part of parents and teachers to investigate improvements for the middle school program. I think forming the task force is the right thing to do,” said Ann Baker, Franklin School Parent Teacher Club President. Principals at both schools said more time was needed to implement the programs and they plan to continue exploring options with parents and teachers. “It appears that administration, the superintendent and school board were listening. Parents don’t necessarily disagree with the concept; they’re concerned about the speed at which it was going and lack of parent input,” said Franklin parent Tami Uhler, who is the wife of Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler. Loomis Grammar School principal Rick Judd and Franklin Elementary School principal Shawn Shaw sent e-mails to the homes of school families informing them of the decision. Both principals cited the need for more time and parent involvement. The principals informed parents that they will be forming parent/teacher task forces for each school to look at issues and explore solutions and different options. Judd stated in his e-mail, “After speaking to many of you and reviewing the survey it is apparent that IB (International Baccalaureate) is a program we would like to see here; it is also apparent that we need more time to consider and plan such a venture.” Shaw’s e-mail stated, “It is clear, from your comments, that you would like additional time to better understand our challenges and consider more options.” Paul Johnson, district superintendent, informed parents in an e-mail that the parent/teacher task forces would explore the issues of “declining enrollment, budget reductions, academics/instruction, school climate” and brainstorm solutions. Placer Elementary School parent Lisa Smith opposed the idea of a charter school because she believed it would have an effect on the other schools and the community. In response to Johnson’s e-mail she said, “I feel like they’re putting it off temporarily. I’m glad they’re forming task forces.” Initially, the principals and school district said they proposed the charter schools as a way to deliver the International Baccalaureate program, increase enrollment, save teacher jobs and help students become better thinkers. Some teachers opposed the charter school portion of the proposal because charter teachers would not be members of their union. The school district said charter schools bring in additional revenue from the state and draw students from outside the district. Charter schools also receive start-up grant money from the state and can receive construction funds in the future. Other local school districts have been forced to close schools in response to declining enrollment and state budget cuts. Alta Vista School, in Auburn, closed last year and Eureka Elementary School in Granite Bay will close in June.