Parents from a Mission Viejo campus that houses two schools squared off at the Capistrano Unified School District’s school board meeting Monday.
The subject was a request from the campus' charter school, Oxford Preparatory Academy, to expand its maximum student population from 628 to 772. The school board did not take any action, as the report was informational only, but set a public hearing on the matter for its Jan. 9 meeting.
Oxford parents packed the board meeting room dressed in teal, their school color. A few parents also showed up to lobby for their school’s very existence.
“We are watching our neighborhood school become a drive-by school for parents as far away as San Clemente,” said Barcelona dad Patrick Mallon. He called Oxford’s request for growth “continuing and domineering demands for space.”
Meanwhile, “it’s second-class citizen treatment for a first-class school,” Mallon said.
school board trustees , giving the green light for as many as 550 students and the ability to run a 100-student independent-study program.
But Oxford voluntarily reduced its regular enrollment to 450 K-8 students and agreed to .
Under Proposition 39, Capistrano Unified must provide facilities free of charge to charter schools that serve Capo students. Sharing the Barcelona Hills campus was the only solution the district could devise, Superintendent Joseph Farley has said.
“I don’t think Prop. 39 was designed to close an existing school,” said Barcelona parent Magda McClain, who added that the two schools are “not existing harmoniously.”
Barcelona parents attended the board’s last meeting to complain during the open-comments session about several instances of Oxford students bullying Barcelona students.
Oxford dad Rob Johnson countered that a handful of Barcelona parents have tried to intimidate the Oxford administration, and in one instance, sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene.
Interrupting from his seat, Mallon shouted: “That’s a good one. That’s a good one.”
Johnson said that proved his point.
“For every complaint they have made, we could reciprocate. But [Executive Director] Sue Roche has recommended we stay above the fray,” Oxford parent Johnson said. “Every student, whether at Oxford or Barcelona, is a student in this district and deserves your protection.”
Several other Oxford parents spoke in support of the school. Parent Brian McCrary said the “vicious and intense feelings” began before trustees decided on the campus share. Picketing Barcelona parents held up signs that said “Keep Barcelona pure” and “Barcelona is the best, God will take care of the rest.”
Added McClary: “This is a potentially unsafe situation for all if left unresolved.”
Roche did address the board, saying she and Barcelona’s administration are working hard to resolve any issues. School staff is teaching students about school rules and what to do if they feel they are being bullied.
She added that her school’s request for more space is linked to a recent call for parents to indicate whether they would like to enroll their children in Oxford next year. She received about 1,600 intents-to-enroll overall, with 1,491 coming from families who live within Capo Unified’s boundaries.
“We felt it was necessary to provide the opportunity for more students to come to our school,” she said.