SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Continuation School to Get 2nd Location


In an effort to distance students from gang hostilities, the Capistrano Unified School District plans to create a second campus for its continuation school, outside a South County gang’s territory in San Juan Capistrano.

Trustees on Monday unanimously approved creating the Rancho Alternative Education Center in a San Clemente business park. The location is roughly 10 miles from the district’s continuation school, Serra High School, which is in the territory of the Capistrano Old Town gang in San Juan Capistrano.

Some students from San Clemente who are affiliated with that city’s Varrio Chico gang have refused to attend Serra for fear of being hurt and have dropped out, district officials said.


A continuation school gives individualized attention to students who are at risk of quitting school or have had problems functioning at regular high schools. Some attend full time while others take classes part time to earn diplomas or high school equivalency certificates.

Thomas Anthony, assistant superintendent for secondary school operations, said the district is not concerned with the appearance of giving in to the gangs’ turf battles. On the contrary, he said, providing students with a safe place to attend classes will give them opportunities enabling them to break free of local gangs.

“We can’t possibly think that we’re going to eliminate the gangs in South County,” Anthony said. “It’s a chance to get the kids back into the mainstream.”

The school still must be approved by city and state officials.

But Edward Heard Jr. of San Clemente told trustees he and other residents were opposed to having the school in that area.

“We don’t see how the San Clemente business park is going to solve these problems,” Heard said. “And from our standpoint, it’s going to introduce an element that we don’t want to see.”

The school would be located in the San Clemente Commerce Center at 940 Calle Negocio. It would serve students in grades 10 through 12 from San Clemente High School or those who request transfer from Serra High. The center’s two classrooms, activity room and two offices are expected to accommodate about 30 students.


Besides addressing gang problems, Anthony said the district also needs the second campus because enrollment in its continuation school program is outgrowing the Serra site, where about 230 full- and part-time students are enrolled. The Rancho campus is also needed, he said, because some continuation students in San Clemente have difficulty finding transportation to Serra High, near El Camino Real and Don Juan Avenue.