Squaw Academy owner files to open charter campus | SierraSun.com

Squaw Academy owner files to open charter campus

Two applications to open charter schools – including one by Squaw Valley Academy owner Don Rees – were filed Nov. 18 with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

“It is a connected kind of application,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma.

One application is for a kindergarten through sixth-grade school and was filed by Adrian Forbes. The second application is for a seventh through 12th grade school and was filed by Don Rees.

Rees is the owner of the private Squaw Valley Academy, but when contacted Wednesday, he was unable to comment on the charter school application. Forbes, too, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

A public hearing, required within 30 days of the application, will be held at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the TTUSD offices, 11839 Donner Pass Road. The TTUSD Board of Trustees will not approve or deny the applications at the public hearing.

The school board will have to determine whether to approve the applications based on guidelines that the state offers on charter schools. One of those is whether the proposed charter school is educationally sound, Gemma said. Another is whether the applicant has fulfilled everything required to make a proposal.

“If the school board denies, it has to give specific reasons why,” Gemma said.

If a charter is denied, then the applicant can appeal to the county first, and then the state. Gemma says it is difficult legally for school boards to deny charter schools.

The TTUSD approved the Prosser Creek Charter School in spring 1997 and it opened for the 1998-99 school year. The district suffered a loss of enrollment and funding in 1998-99 as a result of the charter school attracting students who were former TTUSD students.

In January, Prosser Creek Charter School will have about 370 students. It will have lost about 150 out-of-the-area students because of a new law which says charter students must live in a contiguous county, according to Prosser Creek Head of School Jayna Gaskell, who also serves on State Superintendent Delaine Eastin’s advisory council on charter schools.

Gaskell said ldistricts don’t have much legal room to deny charters, but it happens often and counties don’t reverse those decisions. There is also not much follow-up at the state level either. Only one charter application has been appealed to the state and it was denied for just grounds, she said.

“Realistically, it happens all the time. With the integrity of our school board and our superintendent, they will probably follow the law,” Gaskell said.

Gemma did not know if Rees planned to close Squaw Valley Academy or open the charter school as a separate school.

Private schools cannot convert to a charter school, Gaskell said.

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