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Orange County board to weigh fate of 2 charter schools seeking to open in local districts

Orange County board to weigh fate of 2 charter schools seeking to open in local districts
Teacher Emily Di Bartolomeo greets fourth- and fifth-graders at Hope View Elementary School in Huntington Beach in 2015. Hope View is part of the Ocean View School District, which denied a proposal from a charter school last year. (File Photo)

The Orange County Board of Education may determine Wednesday whether two charter schools will be allowed to create alternative campuses in two area districts this year.

The schools — the International School for Science and Culture and Sycamore Creek Community Charter School — were unanimously denied last year by the boards of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Ocean View School District, respectively.

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ISSAC and Sycamore Creek filed appeals to the Orange County board shortly afterward and a public hearing for each proposal was held last month as officials heard from opponents and advocates.

ISSAC’s petition describes it as a free public charter school with a focus on STREAM (science, technology, reading and writing, engineering, arts and math) and foreign-language education. The petition seeks a five-year term with hopes of opening in August with about 390 students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. Students would study Spanish and Mandarin Chinese in addition to English and would rotate among different classrooms.

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Sycamore’s proposal says the free public charter school would apply arts-integrated curriculum inspired by Waldorf methodologies, in which students’ creativity is a central focus. The school anticipates opening in September and serving transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, with overall enrollment capped at 240 students.

Critics of charter schools often argue that they drain resources from struggling districts. Advocates contend they promote choices for parents interested in providing their children with an alternative curriculum.

Newport-Mesa and Ocean View took issue with a variety of aspects of the charters’ programs, including curriculum and administration.

Newport-Mesa said qualification requirements for ISSAC educators were insufficient and that the school didn’t specify the methods it would use to measure students’ success.

The district’s resolution also stated it found ISSAC’s proposal to be a “repackaging” of a separate charter petition for a school called Adrian Hands Academy that was repeatedly denied by the Saddleback Valley Unified School District.

ISSAC submitted a rebuttal to the Orange County board, saying Newport-Mesa’s reasons for the denial were “flawed” and that claims the district raised were based on “incorrect information.”

ISSAC said fully credentialed bilingual Spanish and Mandarin teachers are already identified and being recruited. The school also said it would use a “variety of meaningful assessments” to record and analyze academic progress.

In Huntington Beach, an online petition created last weekend was seeking 500 signatures to show that residents stand by Ocean View’s decision to deny Sycamore’s proposal. As of Friday afternoon, the petition had 256 signatures.

Ocean View’s resolution contended Sycamore would only address some state standards at different grade levels than what’s in Common Core State Standards, which could result in learning gaps for students who transfer to another school.

The district also determined that the school “presents an unsound educational program” and that “the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program.”

In a rebuttal submitted to the Orange County board, Sycamore said the district “mischaracterizes” and uses “an overly literal reading” of the proposal and includes “incorrect assumptions.”

Sycamore also said the school would meet all statewide standards and provide the district and parents with a road map outlining when specific standards are met by grade level.

Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at 200 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa.

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