Santa Rosa City Schools backed off a controversial proposal to move Cesar Chavez Language Academy to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary campus on West Ninth Street and is looking at other potential sites, including Cook Middle School in southwest Santa Rosa, for the growing Spanish-language dual immersion charter school.
District officials last week met with Cesar Chavez parents to discuss possible sites for the charter school, which saw its enrollment increase fivefold since opening five years ago at Comstock Middle School. Teachers, parents and students say they’ve outgrown the space and need more age-appropriate classrooms, bathrooms and ballfields.
“Cook Middle School is one scenario,” Assistant Superintendent Anna-Maria Guzmán said about the sites being considered.
In addition to Cook, district officials are looking at the shuttered Lewis Opportunity School on Lomitas Avenue, which previously housed Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts while its Humboldt Street campus underwent a two-year renovation. Talks also included upgrading Comstock.
Jenni Klose, the school board president, said Lewis would need a major renovation.
“It’s a huge financial investment,” she said. “It needs a lot of work.”
Even with the upgrades, Klose said, the school still may not be big enough for the growing charter school, which has been adding a grade level every year, boosting enrollment to more than 300 transitional kindergarten- through-fourth-grade students. Lincoln Elementary was taken off the table after the district realized it can’t put needed portables on the site because of seismic safety requirements, she said.
Guzmán said the district will present the options to the school board April 11.
“We will be meeting with stakeholders prior to the 11th to discuss these options,” she said in an email.
A move likely wouldn’t happen until at least the 2019-20 school year.
The dual-immersion school was opened by the district in 2013 with 65 transitional and traditional kindergarten students, ultimately displacing the independent Santa Rosa Charter School from the Comstock campus. Enrollment is expected to swell further as the school expands to reach the eighth grade by fall 2021.
“Cook is what the parents gravitated to most out of the three options,” said Xavier Nazario, one of about dozen parents on the charter school’s facilities master plan committee, which has been touring schools in the district. “It’s the only campus that can support our enrollment numbers five years and beyond.”
Nazario, who currently has a 5-year-old daughter in transitional kindergarten at Cesar Chavez, said Cook Middle School would offer more amenities, including a larger cafeteria and multipurpose room.
How Cook Middle School — which has seen over the past decade its enrollment decrease from about 600 students to just over 400 — and the dual immersion school would share the space remains unclear. District officials did not provide specifics.
“We are still in the process of exploring options for (Cesar Chavez Language Academy),” said Beth Berk, the district’s spokeswoman. “If a move is found to be the best option, then we’ll be able to talk more about logistics and timelines.”