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State budget woes halt Santa Rosa charter school expansion

  • Teachers at the Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts gave up their staff room to allow room for another classroom. They now eat lunch and make copies in the library on Monday, October, 29, 2012. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Plans to expand and remodel the campus of Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts have hit a funding snag that is likely to delay the project at least a year.

Santa Rosa City Schools has been awarded a $5.1 million grant, and officials had planned to secure a $5.1 million state loan to cover the required local matching funds. The loan was to be repaid with redevelopment and developer fees, but those dollars were put in limbo after Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved 400 local redevelopment agencies on Feb. 1 to use their funds to help close the state budget gap.

"We absolutely need the state funds in hand to move forward," said Associate Superintendent Doug Bower.

Santa Rosa Charter School For The Arts

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The delay is complicated by the fact that the $10.2 million upgrade to the Humboldt Street campus includes significant expansion and construction, requiring the entire school population to relocate for a full school year. That complicated arrangement was expected in 2013-14 but is now put off at least a year.

The ripple effect of that move would be felt elsewhere in Sonoma County's largest school district, as another campus would likely have to share facilities with the 340-student arts charter for a year.

"It's not just relocation; you are displacing something else," Bower said.

The delay comes as the arts charter is experiencing significant growth in popularity. The school has seen its kindergarten through eighth-grade enrollment grow 93 percent since it was opened on the former Fremont Elementary School campus in 2007.

The expansion plan proposes to add a two-story classroom building, black box theater, 1,440-square-foot dance room and new administration building among other additions. The new facility would accommodate 430 students.

"In a way, we have this problem of our own success," Principal Elizabeth Evans said. "We have more kids than we have space."

Officials are pressing forward with plans to continue to offer two kindergarten classes for 2013-14 and hold a lottery for any classes with more students than space.


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