After-school enrichment classes run by the Capistrano Unified School District have been canceled for December and January because the district is no longer allowed to charge fees for them, Superintendent Joseph Farley said at a town hall-type meeting Wednesday.
About 80 or so parents gathered at Aliso Niguel High School to raise various concerns with Farley, including the recent notice that all classes offered through the district’s Activities Camps Enrichment program are canceled.
“Most of us already paid, and then we’re getting calls there will be no class,” a mom shouted from the back of the audience.
Farley said they will get refunds. The classes were canceled because of a new law that came about after the ACLU sued the state because many school districts – including Capo Unified – were charging fees when education is supposed to be free for all students, he said.
The district is already developing a work-around solution, Farley said. While the district itself no longer can provide the enrichment classes, nonprofit foundations that raise money for the schools can, and so can for-profit organizations, as long as they pay to use the school facilities at the market rates.
However, attorneys have advised the district to only allow classes that are substantially different than the curriculum offered during the regular school day, Farley said. So while a Lego engineering class is probably OK, musical theaters classes may not be, he said.
“We’re literally right in the middle of figuring out what can be legal,” Farley told parents. He’s hopeful many of the classes will be back online for the second semester.
“I think it will be OK,” he said.
Other topics raised by parents included:
- Technology – parents were concerned that CUSD seems behind the technology curve. Farley said the district has a very comprehensive technology plan but did acknowledge that schools with more aggressive parent fundraising has created “haves and have-nots.”
- The budget – parents said they were unhappy with class sizes and fewer instructional days on the school calendar. Farley said the district had no choice when it was forced to cut $30 million from the budget. “If and when income improves, furlough days will be the first thing that will improve and then probably the class sizes,” he said. He said no one wanted these cuts, but the district had nothing left to cut.
- The unions – one parent said the teachers are looking out for themselves, not the children. Farley said that wasn’t a fair representation. “At least in our district, the association gets a bad rap when it’s perceived that they weren’t cooperating with us when they were. … We’d like to have longer years, we’d like to have more days. We don’t want furlough days either. We can’t wait to get that erased.”
Farley also outlined some initiatives he’d like to see on the horizon, including addressing the needs of aging schools that have had large maintenance projects deferred because of the ongoing budget crisis, mandatory drug testing for student athletes and a massive public relations campaign to encourage parents and the community to brag about the great schools in the district.