Assistant superintendent Shelley Burgess gave the Board of Trustees an update Thursday evening of efforts to create a charter school in Imperial Beach.
If a petition the district is moving quickly submit to the California Department of Education March 26 is approved, it will be the first time classes for seventh and eighth graders will be available in Imperial Beach and the district's second charter school behind Nestor Language Academy.
Applications to enroll at Imperial Beach Charter School will begin next month, though the proposed school still needs to go through an approval process, including a vote of approval from staff.
The idea of a charter school that serves seventh and eighth graders within Imperial Beach has been discussed since the 1990s, trustee Chris Brown said.
The most recent request was made by parents of students at IB Elementary three years ago, and opening a new charter was made a district goal.
A draft of the petition will be available for public review next month when Burgess presents it to the board for approval.
Creating the charter school would combine West View Early Learning Center with IB Elementary. The schools would share finances, PTAs and staff.
Initially classes for seventh and eighth graders would only be offered to 60 to 90 students, but could grow larger in the future, Burgess said.
Surveys submitted by about 100 parents of fifth and sixth graders at IB, Central and Oneonta elementary schools found that near two-thirds would enroll their children at the new charter school.
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The school's academic focus has not yet been identified, but options are being explored by a focus group made up of parents, teacher and administrators from the district and Nestor Language Academy.
An emphasis in science and technology, visual/performing arts and global studies/foreign language were the most popular choices with parents who took the survey.
"When you look at the comments that were made by parents both on the survey and in the focus group, what we continue to hear from parents is what's really important to us is not necessarily one of these things but really it's a vigorous program that prepares them for high school," Burgess said.
The school's curriculum will likely be developed throughout the year until the new year begins in July, Burgess said.
About 20 percent said the absence of Compact for Success would keep them from enrolling their child, while 60 percent said it would not deter them from enrolling their child in the new school.
Imperial Beach Charter School will be unable to offer all the things an average middle school provides in extra curricular activities, but efforts are being made to have school dances and other things considered part of the middle school experience.
Class options will also be limited. For example, there will not be multiple options for math classes and PE time and may be held on a block schedule instead of daily.
Trustee Nick Inzunga said he is happy the district will be able to offer students and their families another option beyond Mar Vista Middle School.
"The gangs, bullying, poor overall student participation and negative influences and poor standards, they were asking, begging remember when Dr. Bennett was here, for options," he said.
Superintendent Carol Parish said the school is not being established to compete with others but to meet students needs.
"I think that it's healthy and it's good for the families and children to look at what can be done differently to look at students learning needs to be proficient in the 21st century," she said.
Concerns voiced by staff in a survey include not enough time to plan, behavior problems from older students and population management.
Frank Cherry spoke to the board with California School Employees Association president Linda Elliott, and said employees are concerned about the school keeping clean and well maintained. Nutrition breaks will impact cafeteria staff for middle school aged students and custodians are already stretched thin, he said.
Correction: The original version of this article said Frank Cherry is president of California School Employees Association Chapter 59. Linda Elliott is the chapter president.