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Citrus Heights council to consider letter of support for proposed charter school

Sentinel staff report–
The Citrus Heights City Council on Thursday will consider officially approving a letter of support for a charter school that is seeking to open in the city.

The charter school, American River Collegiate Academy, was proposed by the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools last year, but the San Juan Unified School District’s governing board voted unanimously to deny its application to operate as a charter two months ago. The decision was appealed to the Sacramento County Board of Education, which will hear the matter next month.

The proposed 100-word letter of support is included in the City Council’s agenda packet for their upcoming Jan. 23 meeting. The letter reads:

Dear Sacramento County Board of Education Trustees,

The American River Collegiate Academy, part of the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools, is planning to bring a campus to, or near, the City of Citrus Heights. The Rocklin Academy Family of Schools has a strong track record of academic success.

The Citrus Heights City Council are strong supporters of public education and believe in high quality public school choice in the City of Citrus Heights that will benefit students, families, and the community as a whole. On behalf of the City of Citrus Heights, the City Council supports the Academy in bringing this academic option to our community.

The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the board of education on Feb. 4, according to Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, who made the request that her fellow council members consider writing the letter of support.

Bruins previously told The Sentinel she was disappointed in the school board’s decision to deny the charter application, saying the city needs more educational options. She expects “a more favorable outcome” at the county level.

As previously reported on The Sentinel, Bruins’ support for charter schools has also been expressed by other council members, like Steve Miller, who said while running for re-election in 2018 that he was “very disappointed” with the San Juan Unified School District and said schools in Citrus Heights are “falling apart.”

San Juan Unified has approved at least three charter schools in the past, but board members in November sided with a staff report that recommended denying Rocklin Academy’s request. The report cited financial reasons and other “unknowns,” like a specific location not having been finalized for the school at the time.

Board members also expressed concerns about an “overly optimistic” attendance growth rate and the application appearing “rushed.”

Related: SJUSD shoots down proposed charter school in Citrus Heights; appeal planned

The proposed academy, referred to as the American River Collegiate Academy, or ARCA, would begin with only Kindergarten through 2nd grade. More grade levels and classes would then be added until a “full slate of K-12 classes” are offered, the academy said in a news release last year.

Plans for the new charter school were publicly announced in September by the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools, which was founded in 2000 and currently operates four campuses.

As of Jan. 18, a spokeswoman told The Sentinel a specific location in Citrus Heights has not been finalized. The academy has previously said that a “backup” location has been identified in Orangevale, just outside Citrus Heights, but still within San Juan district boundaries.

LETTER: Charter schools are not the answer

Schools in the Rocklin Academy family are “designed with a college prep focus so that graduating students are enrolled in coursework required for entrance to the University of California, California State University of select private universities,” according to the academy’s news release.

The schools are tuition-free and open to all students, “though priority will be given to Citrus Heights residents when the new school opens,” the news release said.

An agenda for the upcoming Feb. 4 meeting of the Sacramento County Board of Education had not been posted as of Jan. 18, but the board website says meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at 10474 Mather Blvd., in Mather.

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