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Alternative education campus opens in Santa Rosa

It's been years since Courtney Sherman of Cotati attended a typical high school and she has missed the hustle and bustle of switching rooms between subjects and seeing a new teacher at the head of the class a few times a day.

As a student in the Sonoma County Office of Education's teen parent education program, Sherman said she was tired of the one-room schoolhouse feel of the program in the past and is much happier at the school's new Amarosa Academy, which opened in August.

The Dutton Avenue campus now houses not only the teen parent program but high school and junior high community school classrooms that last year were in storefront operations on McBride Lane and Cleveland Avenue. The students are typically enrolled in the county's teen parent program or have been expelled from from regular high schools.

"The desks and everything are super nice," Sherman said. "It's more like school, it's more regular. It's what I'm used to."

The $10 million project, funded through state grants, has been in the pipeline for years. It ran into a snag in 2006 when a proposal to locate the campus just 500 feet from Elsie Allen High School ignited protest from Santa Rosa City Schools. Prior to that proposal, county officials had searched for two years and examined more than at least a half-dozen locations.

The current site is in the same general southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood as the previously proposed site. It is situated on about six acres of an area zoned for light industrial and sits near a self storage business and hardware suppliers.

A number of the classrooms are currently unused because like many districts in Sonoma County, the county's alternative education program is seeing declining enrollment.

"The fact that we are graduating kids and not getting the younger kids referred at the same rate is a good thing," said Georgia Ioakimedes, director of alternative education for the Sonoma County Office of Education.

About 100 students attend Amarosa Academy — students that once would have been spread out in storefront operations "that were never meant to a classroom," Ioakimedes said.

"It feels a lot better, much cleaner," said Tony Coello, an 18-year-old student who was at the McBride Lane campus before eventually landing at Amarosa.


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