Santa Rosa’s first charter school is on the edge of closure, its officials acknowledged, after the Santa Rosa school board Wednesday declined to help it find new quarters or to support it with bond funds.
The board gave no clearly stated reason. But Donna Jeye, its president, indicated the district had no extra space and that the charter school was not a priority for bond funds.
Asked after the meeting whether the kindergarten- through-eighth-grade Santa Rosa Charter School had a contingency plan, board member and co-founder Christine Peterson said only, “Do you have a vacant school?”
“We’re stunned,” she added after a meeting at which officials from Cook and Comstock middle schools and the Cesar Chavez Language Academy asked the board not to put the charter school on their campuses.
The school’s supporters had appeared at the board meeting in desperate circumstances, having to move out of their temporary space in two large halls at the Sonoma County fairgrounds at the end of this school year and with nowhere to move to.
They had reduced their request for support, which previously had been a request for help finding and funding a permanent home, to the point where its officials simply were asking for temporary space while they continued to search for a permanent space.
“We have the flexibility to start later” in the school year, said LaDonna Moore, the charter school’s administrator. “We have the ability to share” a facility if need be, making the case that the school could use the Lewis School building off Steele Lane.
But the Santa Rosa City Schools board greeted their presentation Wednesday, at which the school’s officials outlined four options they saw as viable, with stony silence. It took no action, which effectively killed off the charter school’s request.
Only Jeye responded, saying, “I think it’s a very difficult situation for everyone included, particularly for the members of the community of Santa Rosa Charter School.”
She said the district’s bond funds would not cover its own needs, never mind the school’s.
The charter school is part of the Santa Rosa Education Cooperative, which also includes a preschool and a child care center.
The school’s supporters had appealed to the district to show it the same support that it had in past years. In 1995, the district provided the school a loan to get started and approved a variance allowing it to open outside the Santa Rosa elementary district, contrary to its charter. The district also has previously worked with the school to find it space, as it did at Comstock in 2007.
The school is an independent charter, not one to which the district would have a full obligation to provide facilities. Instead, the district only authorizes it and oversees its finances. The district only must provide independent charters facilities once they have 80 pupils from within the district. The charter school has fewer than 50.
On Wednesday Jeye emphasized the distance in that relationship. “We have had a history together,” she said. “But we are your authorizer. And you are looking for a home that would displace some of our current programs.”
Soon the charter school’s supporters were trying to gather themselves.