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Rohnert Park schools plan SSU partnership

Cotati-Rohnert Park School District is pressing forward with plans to reopen the La Fiesta Elementary School campus in the fall, this time in partnership with Sonoma State University.

District officials floated the idea of opening the campus on Limon Way last year but did not get enough takers to warrant offering classes.

Now, the district is developing plans to reopen the school in a partnership with Sonoma State University, which would place undergraduates pursuing degrees in early childhood studies in classrooms and focus the curriculum on project-based learning.

The families of 44 students have now committed to enrolling their children in August, according to district officials. The target for opening is 48 students in kindergarten through second grade, said Sarah Rapp, a student at Sonoma State's master of education program who has helped spearhead the plan.

"I really do think most parents are very committed," said Rapp, a mother of a kindergartner in the district. "I anticipate we will start a waiting list within the week."

There likely will be two classrooms with students from multiple ages in each, she said. "It is new to some parents but research supports learning in multi-age classrooms," she said.

The projected opening marks an about-face for Sonoma County's third-largest school district, which has been hit hard by declining enrollment and budget cuts for years. It has closed four schools, including La Fiesta, since 2002.

But backers said creating new programs will lure back families that have left neighborhood schools for neighboring districts, taking state funding with them.

About 800 students live within district boundaries but attend other public schools, according to Superintendent Robert Haley. That number does not include students attending private and charter schools.

The partnership with Sonoma State is key for the new endeavor, Haley said.


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