Visiting Charter Schools in Redding, Paradise, and Nevada City

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December 14, 2012 I recently had the opportunity to tour 8 charter schools, in 3 counties, over 2 days. It was a whirlwind! I was joined by Kristen McCaw from our School Development and Support Team, and Rachel Minnick, from Families that Can. We visited a wide variety of schools in Shasta, Butte, and Nevada counties, and choose schools from a cross section of California's charter schools movement, in terms of size, academic focus, and educational philosophy.

Small Schools Rocky Point Charter School, Monarch Learning Center, and Paradise Charter Middle School are three small but mighty charter schools that serve less than 150 students each. Chris Reid, the principal of Paradise Charter Middle School, believes that the size of his program is the secret to working with restless 11-13 year olds. He knows all of his students by name, and has a genuine interest and respect for them as individuals. He started out as an elementary school teacher, but he's in love with his funny, sarcastic, inspiring middle school kids. Despite being prodded by parents to start a high school, he's happy to stay focused on providing a high quality middle school program.

Facility Challenges and Successes We saw our fair share of charter schools that are facing facilities challenges, but were also glad to see some notable successes: Redding School of the Arts is in the second year of operation in their gorgeous, 'green' building. Shasta Secondary Home School is very close to paying off the note on their building, and they're already looking for a new place to locate their headquarters. Forest Charter School signed a 10 year lease from Nevada City Elementary School District for the Gold Run Elementary school site that will start at a mere $.65 per square foot - a great deal for the personalized learning school. Many charter schools still struggle with securing long-term facilities: Yuba River Charter School is at a crossroads with their Proposition 1D award. Rocky Point Charter School may be crowded out of their facility by a popular church preschool program. Children's Community Charter School had to close the campus for two days to repair flood damage in their Kindergarten. Charter school facilities needs are as diverse as the movement!

Next week, I'll continue to reflect on the trends that I noticed on the trip, including increasing sophistication around special education collaboratives in Shasta and Nevada County, and the growing political clout of charter schools in Chico Unified. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at lkerr@ccsa.org.