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More Than 100 Barcelona Parents Bring Their Protest to School Board

Barcelona Hills in Mission Viejo is slated to be the site of the elementary school program for a new charter school opening in September.

Wearing their school color of navy blue, about 125 parents, teachers and supporters of continued Wednesday night their push to sway the district from its decision to house a new charter school at their campus.

Barcelona Hills mom Vivian Contreras was among the group of supporters who addressed the Capistrano Unified School board of trustees at its meeting Wednesday. She choked up as she explained that her greatest source of pride is that her children, in first and fourth grades, love their school.

“I see Barcelona as the diamond of Capistrano Unified,” Contreras said, describing a close-knit community of nurturing teachers. The school is a National Blue Ribbon school and California Distinguished School.

She said she has trouble understanding how a district that struggles to maintain its school—the community comes together to maintain and beautify the Barcelona campus—will now spend money to split the school in two.

“This is a classic lose-lose situation that sacrifices quality at both schools,” she said.

Because the subject was not part of the board’s agenda for the evening, the trustees could not speak on the matter. But district spokesman Marcus Walton later said Barcelona Hills remains Capo’s best choice for an elementary campus for Oxford Prepatory Academy.

Last week, Superintendent Joseph Farley announced at a Barcelona Hills PTA meeting that the Mission Viejo school would be sharing facilities with Oxford Preparatory Academy, a charter school set to open in September. The announcement in support of their school at morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times.

Despite the announcement, officials at Oxford say they have not yet signed any agreement with the school district. The charter school is asking that the district provide facilities free of charge under Proposition 39. It will operate a K-8 school, but the district is proposing that Barcelona Hills house only the elementary program.

One campus with two “destination schools” on a campus the size of Barcelona Hills makes no sense, said Laura Hess, a parent at Barcelona Hills and a former teacher with the district.

“The increased number of cars on our streets, through the intersections where our children cross in and out of the parking lot is of great concern,” Hess said.

Then there’s the matter of the campus not being big enough for two schools, especially when they will have to share the multipurpose room, music program and library, Hess said.

“The quality of educational opportunities by Barcelona students will be negatively impacted,” she said. “It will be impossible for Oxford to deliver on its promised education to its students. It will be disruptive to the surrounding community. This is not the right thing for either school.”

The district previously considered placing Oxford’s elementary programs on the same campus with Journey School, an existing charter that uses the former site of Foxborough Elementary in Aliso Viejo. Oxford’s middle schoolers were slated to share space at . those arrangements.

Parent Linda Shepard said Oxford will displace as many as 126 students who will be forced out of their neighborhood school.

“By bringing students from outside of this neighborhood, Oxford will be the driver that forces children in this neighborhood to attend other schools,” Shepard said.

At the beginning of the meeting, when the board members are free to make announcements about items not on the agenda, Trustee John Alpay announced that all seven board members decided to donate to Barcelona Hills’ beautification efforts.

After the meeting, he said the gesture was a “way to show support and to say thank you.”

Melissa Hodge April 29, 2011 at 01:13 AM
What about using the Crown Valley Elementary School as an option? Wasn't that on the chopping blocks a couple of years ago?
KC April 29, 2011 at 01:33 AM
I'm not sure of the attendance at Barcelon but it's sharply dropped in the last few years. It use to be a nightmare to have to drive by in the morning/afternoon but now there is hardly a line.
M April 30, 2011 at 02:22 PM
It's interesting because saddleback valley school district is supposed to CLOSING a couple or a few of their elementary schools. I wonder why OPA isn't checking out those campuses? Penny, did you come across any information on this?
cheryl April 30, 2011 at 02:30 PM
M, I believe the information you are looking for is in this article http://lakeforest-ca.patch.com/articles/parents-say-svusd-committee-violated-brown-act As soon as I saw the headline about the charter school, I thought of the proposed closures and the schools that have already been closed in SVUSD.
M April 30, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Thanks Cheryl, I just read the article. Wouldn't it make sense that IF those campuses are closing that OPA should consider using those instead? Or is it because it's a different district? But why should that matter?
cheryl April 30, 2011 at 03:02 PM
M, I wouldn't think the district would matter. I believe SVUSD is leasing out o'neill elementary, they are using la Tierra for other things, they moved the children's services offices to that campus last year and I don't know what the other school that closed a couple years ago is being used for. But if they are closing 3 more schools due to declining enrollment, it would be the perfect spot for a charter school.
Penny Arévalo April 30, 2011 at 03:18 PM
A charter school must reside in the district in which the charter was approved. While Saddleback does look for possible school closures as a way to close their budget gap (which is less than half of Capo's), this has not been on the table at Capo. There are at least two other schools under 500-student enrollment besides Barcelona Hills, Reilly in Mission Viejo, Crown Valley in Laguna Niguel. Hidden Hills in Laguna Niguel is just over the 500 mark. Clarence Lobo in San Clemente is right at 500.
cp May 01, 2011 at 07:11 AM
I'm thinking that the district must be looking at total enrollment when closing schools/setting up charter schools. Therefore, moving the charter school to one of the closed sites would result in one more school open that is needed. I checked out the website for Oxford Prep Academy. It looks like an interesting program so I'm surprised so many parents are protesting. I like the idea of a charter school option in my neighborhood.
Pam Sunderman May 01, 2011 at 02:31 PM
The reason they are protesting is that they are very happy with their public school. It has been a successful school for years, with supportive parents, caring teachers and an involved community. It's not broken and they see no reason to make such a drastic change to their campus. Sharing facilities with another school will seriously impact programs already in place. I believe that is the reason that the OPA charter was rejected by SVUSD...they did not see a need that would justify jeopardizing schools and programs already in place. This also seems to be the case in CUSD. OPA may be a good school but will it serve students better than the schools already in place?
Capo Parent May 02, 2011 at 08:13 PM
This another example of how the screwed up Superintendent Farley and the new board majority are. Farley shows up at a PTA meeting at BH and announces, out of the blue, that BH will be sharing its campus with OPA. Not only was this news to the BH community, it was news to OPA. Neither were warned or consulted beforehand. To add fuel to the fire Farley claims that CUSD was "ambushed" by OPA. (Nothing like a reckless, misleading statement to calm the waters.) The parents of BH were and are upset at how they have been treated by CUSD. Of course, this is not the first time Farley has done this. He did the same thing to OPA, Aliso Viejo Middle School & Journey charter school several weeks earlier. Notwithstanding the spin of jollygirl, what Farley and a majority of the board are trying to do is keep OPA from getting off the ground. Besides screwing with a meaningful site for OPA, CUSD and its supporters (jollygirl) spread rumors and misleading statements. The real reason CUSD fears OPA, real competition. Trustee Pritchard admitted this at the time the board voted to approve the charter for OPA (which it did because legally it had no choice, OPA meet all the legal requirements).
shelly May 03, 2011 at 03:57 AM
Capo Parent, Where should OPA go then?
Pam Sunderman May 03, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Capo Parent, What rumor did I spread? I was surmising from the statements of parents in the article. As an aside to Laura Hess...sounds like you are as wonderful a parent as you were a teacher. It was a pleasure being your teamie with KF :). Miss you my friend!
orangeman May 05, 2011 at 08:59 PM
"A charter school must reside in the district in which the charter was approved." That is not a true statement. Go read the state law.
Capo Parent May 05, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Viejo Elementary since it is no longer a neighbor school, but rather, a program specific school, i.e. Spanish immersion. Move the Spanish immersion program to another school, e.g. Barcelona Hills. How many students will be at Viejo once the Spanish immersion program get's rid of the English component. I've heard (but not confirmed) that Viejo's facilities are in need of major help. OPA will provide the manpower and resources to fix up and spruce up Viejo.
OC Mom June 09, 2011 at 06:33 PM
I would love it if they'd consider Crown Valley Elementary, but that will also displace kids. Could the kids at Crown Valley be moved to Bergeson, Laguna niguel Elementary, Hidden Hills, Moulton etc. so that OPA could have a dedicated, non shared site?
shelly June 09, 2011 at 08:04 PM
OC Mom, Why should kids from an existing school have to move and have to drive to three or four different schools to accomodate kids who do not live in their neighborhood? Does that really seem fair to you? So if you have a kinder and a fourth grader at Crown Valley and have worked hard on the PTA and in the classroom for your school and you walk your kids to school you need to just pick up your roots and move on so that a new school can move on in. Is this what you consider fair? Journey is a charter school and they had to move several times and share a campus everytime. The parents worked with the existing community and their school community to make it happen. They did not believe that they were more important than the existing school or community. But still it is unfair to Barcelona. I would be very unhappy if this happened at one of my children's schools especially if the parents from the new school feel as if their new school is more important then the existing school.
Julie Flores June 09, 2011 at 09:38 PM
OPA was approved for the CAPO school district, not Saddleback. Saddleback denied OPA previously.

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