A new charter school will add more students next year, and the elementary school with which it has been will close.
The ’s Board of Trustees made the separate decisions Wednesday night before hundreds of parents who packed the trustee chambers and took advantage of a “spillover” room.
Afterward, parents and teachers from Mission Viejo-based hugged and cried and encouraged each other to hold their heads high.
“Even if we did not choose to increase enrollment [at Oxford Preparatory Academy], we would still be obligated to provide 21 of the 27 classrooms at Barcelona Hills,” said Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent of education services.
By allowing Oxford to grow from its already approved maximum enrollment of 628 to 772 students – 100 of whom are in the charter school’s independent study program and come to campus only a couple times a week. The charter now needs 25 of those classrooms, Hatchel said.
Under voter-approved Proposition 39, school districts must make classrooms available to charters that serve district students. Charter schools are public schools, but are freed from many of the restrictions that apply to regular public schools.
Sue Roche, executive director of Oxford, which runs a similar program in Chino Valley, said the school needs to expand to accommodate the many siblings who are split among schools because families could not enroll all their children in Oxford.
Shelby Barone’s family is one of them.
“My child in the independent study program wants so badly to have a full-time spot in Oxford prep. She wants to have a desk to hold her pencils, a wall to hang up her artwork and a teacher to greet her every day,” Barone said.
Others, like Lauren Tran’s children, would go to Oxford if only they could get in, she said.
“Please make our signatures count,” she said. “Please give parents like me the opportunity to choose.”
Meanwhile, several parents from Barcelona Hills spoke against the expansion. Michael Nemic called the proposal “reckless” and not made in a spirit of cooperation with Barcelona Hills. Barcelona dad Patrick Mallon said the school district was engaging in the time-honored tradition of “divide and conquer.”
Trustee Ellen Addonizio said the district did bring the upon itself when it decided last year that Oxford and Barcelona would share a campus.
“It did become a turf war,” she said. “We did that. Maybe it could’ve been handled a little bit differently.”
Trustee Lynn Hatton was the only trustee to vote against the expansion. She said Oxford’s five-month history in Capo Unified was not enough history to establish that the program is successful.
“We just don’t have the data to prove that yet,” she said.
In tackling the issue of facilities, Hatton pleaded for families from both schools to carry on with the rest of this school year respectfully.
“Please, be kind to each other,” she said.
The two sides have had their since the beginning of the school year.
By the time the trustees broached the subject of facilities, few wanted to speak. Only Adrian Montgomery, a mom from Barcelona Hills, took the microphone.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” she said. She added she hopes her son’s teachers can follow him to his next school.
Hatchel said Barcelona’s about 220 students would have preferential enrollment into either or .
The trustees voted unanimously to allow Oxford to have all but two classrooms of the Barcelona campus. The trustees also looked at several proposed changes to how Oxford runs its own board meetings but decided against making any changes from its current policy of monthly meetings that alternate between Orange County and Chino Valley.