Some Prosser Creek parents find new charter school | SierraSun.com
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Some Prosser Creek parents find new charter school

Renee Shadforth

Families from the now-closed Prosser Creek Charter School are trying to create a program in the spirit of what Prosser Creek used to be: an independent study program with a resource center.

But it’s going to take time and patience from parents, say officials for the Grass Valley-based Forest Charter School.

By Thursday morning, 51 former Prosser Creek students had enrolled in Forest Charter School’s personalized learning program, which offers non-site-based instruction and a resource center in Grass Valley. “Non-site based,” according to the California Department of Education, is less than 80 percent of student seat time.

And the people at Forest Charter School have spelled it out to parents that their program will never be site-based like Prosser Creek was.

“It is not a drop-off program,” said Sandy McDivitt, executive director of Forest Charter School, at a parent meeting last week. “This is a process where the parents are the primary facilitators and work in collaboration with education specialists.”

Most Prosser Creek families interested in the charter school said they would eventually like to form cooperative programs, with 18-25 students in each, and work together to provide group supplemental instruction with teachers, called “education specialists.”

But parents can’t form co-ops just yet.

“At this point, you’re not ready for a co-op,” McDivitt told the parents. “The program has to start with a real firm foundation.”

Parent involvement

At this point, Forest Charter School has the cash flow to enroll up to 300 students in a Truckee home school program. Before Prosser Creek lost its charter, Forest Charter School served approximately 10 students in the Truckee-North Shore area.

Over the past week more than 100 Truckee and North Shore families have been trying to decide if the independent study option would work for them.

Steve Canavero, a former Prosser Creek administrator, has been working with families – without any pay – since Prosser Creek lost its charter on Aug. 19. He’s been talking with parents to find out if Forest Charter School will fit their needs. Although he sees great opportunities for families with the independent study program, it may not work for everyone, he said.

“It’s a very grassroots, family-led program,” Canavero said. “It’s a lifestyle selection for these parents.”

“With independent study, families are so involved. It’s better to spend a day sitting down and talking about it rather than rushing into it,” he added.

McDivitt said Forest Charter School is deliberate in its enrollment and hiring practices to avoid legal gray areas in charter law.

So, until teachers can be interviewed, hired and trained, parents will be even more involved in their children’s education, McDivitt said. So far, McDivitt has hired six education specialists, but she’s still waiting for fingerprinting to officially sign them on. Also, as Forest Charter School enrollment increases in Truckee, McDivitt said she would be able to hire Canavero as a coordinator.

Many parents at the meeting seemed eager to start the co-op model as soon as possible, but the charter school is also cautious about growing too quickly, McDivitt said.

“[The parents] liked what was being offered (at Prosser Creek), but unfortunately there wasn’t a budget to support that.” McDivitt said. “We’re very, very conservative with our budget. It means being very, very creative. We’ve never been in the red.”

Each student in the program is allotted a $1,000 annual budget, which is managed by the student’s education specialist.

School history

Forest Charter School is a member of the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has 14 charter schools in California. Most of the district’s charters are site-based while others are independent study.

Twin Ridges administrators pride themselves on their business plan, which “flattens out” the vertical flow of administration found in a traditional school district, said Twin Ridges Superintendent Dave Taylor. The district office is called a “service center,” and the superintendent has “ancillary responsibilities,” Taylor said.

Although Taylor maintains that Twin Ridges has found a successful model for charter schooling, the district has faced its share of challenges, he said.

“We’ve been under extreme criticism before,” Taylor said. “Basically because we’ve changed the face of district organization.”


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