Laura Arredondo feared her shy son would get lost in a sea of students at a large school, so when it came time to enroll him at a middle school four years ago, she beelined for Stony Point Academy, a small charter opening in the Bellevue Union School District in south Santa Rosa.
“It’s a good school,” she said of the school that serves about 200 students in grades 7 through 11. Arredondo noted the small class sizes that allow teachers to dedicate more time to her son, who now is going into his junior year. “The teachers are excellent. They care about the students.”
But now Arredondo worries about the future of the charter that sits on the Meadow View Elementary campus after public comments made Monday by district trustees raising the possibility it could be shuttered.
Board president Victor Ayala, in addressing the need for additional portable classrooms, suggested closing the expanding charter school, which opened in mid-2013 with just seventh grade and has been adding a grade level each year.
“Little by little, it’s taking more space from Meadow View … Maybe we should close Stony Point,” Ayala said at the meeting, where he also complained about “inappropriate” and “very heavy” cursing on campus by the older charter students.
“As I said before, and I’m not afraid of saying it again, let’s start getting rid of SPA. At this point it’s more headaches than anything else,” he said. “I’ve seen those children’s behavior. They should be thankful I’m not their father.”
Ayala seemed to find support in at least one fellow board member Monday, but there was no action taken that night.
“I don’t know much about Stony Point School and kids that go there, but to put it bluntly, I think it’s a stupid spot for a school,” said Joy Bruce, who was elected to the board this past fall.
The next night, after word of the comments had been spread by school administrators, concerned parents, students and school supporters packed Tuesday’s regularly scheduled school board meeting to press for clarification. Under the pressure, Ayala appeared to backpedal from his earlier remarks and deny his involvement in calling for the closure.
“I want to clarify to people there is a very strong rumor that people are saying we’re going to close Stony Point Academy. I want to emphasize the fact that this is a lie,” he said to parents in Spanish. “There are no plans to close any school.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Ayala, who has been on the board since 2014, said he doesn’t plan to press for closure of the school despite his earlier stance.
“Yeah, I said it. Sometimes you say stuff you didn’t mean,” he said. “I’m not attempting to close Stony Point Academy. I apologize for giving the wrong impression.”
He said his comments stem from concern of the condition of the school’s portable classrooms, which he called “a piece of junk.”
“If parents want to put their kids in decaying portables, that’s their choice,” Ayala said, adding that the school was poorly planned. “I want a real school, not portables.”
The Bellevue Union district is predominantly Latino and serves one of the most disadvantaged areas in Sonoma County. About 90 percent of the charter school students come from low-income families, Superintendent Alicia Henderson said.