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Guest Opinion: Citrus Heights needs a new charter school. Here’s how you can help

Updated Feb. 3, 8:42 a.m.–
Guest opinion by Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins–
Citrus Heights has the opportunity to offer more choice for public education to families and children living in our city with the opening of American River Collegiate Academy (ARCA), an additional campus of the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools (RAFOS), a charter school with fully accredited teachers.

Last summer, during my term as mayor of Citrus Heights, Jillayne Antoon, the Director of Growth and Community Engagement for RAFOS, contacted me to tell me they had recently completed a strategic plan with a priority outcome to expand into Sacramento County. I responded to Jillayne that I was interested and I subsequently spent a half day at their Rocklin Gateway Academy.

RAFOS prioritized Citrus Heights because they have children living in Citrus Heights attending their Rocklin campuses and on waiting lists to enter their school. Also, our city borders Placer County for the closest proximity to their existing campuses from Sacramento County.

RAFOS has a population of 2600 students in grades K-12. The school is 20 years old. They plan to start with K-2 grades in Citrus Heights and add another grade every year until they have a full K-12 school in our city. They will buy land and build a school in Citrus Heights for a long-term commitment to our community, opening this fall in temporary quarters while their permanent campus is being built.

New charter schools must apply to the district where they will be located and be approved by that Board of Education. RAFOS went through that process with San Juan Unified School District (SJUSD) and was denied by a unanimous vote of the SJUSD school board in November.

The reasons given were inferior programs and financial instability. This is despite statistics presented by RAFOS showing their schools outperform SJUSD in math proficiency and English language arts.

In addition, RAFOS gave complete information of their financial ability and resources to buy land and build the school.

Misinformation abounds about charter schools. At our last City Council meeting, a local citizen and regular speaker at our meetings, spoke in opposition to an impending vote of support for ARCA by the City Council. He alluded that only those who could afford to send their children to the charter school would benefit.

That is one of the most common misconceptions about charter schools. Charter schools are FREE PUBLIC schools that any child can attend. If more students apply than there is room to accommodate them, as is sometimes the case with RAFOS, the school holds an admissions lottery to assure impartiality to those applying.

Another argument against charter schools is a lack of services to special student groups. RAFOS provides services to all student groups including ESL students, children with disabilities, economically disadvantaged children, foster children, students with learning challenges and special education students.

Another argument against charter schools is that they pull the highest performing students from the traditional public schools. That is disproven by the lottery system. The students in charter schools become high performers because the charter school curriculum and educational philosophy provide the learning opportunity that produces excellence.

It is well-known that many families in Citrus Heights are sending their students to schools outside of the San Juan Unified School District. Giving our families a charter school option will help to keep our kids in our community, and that’s good for ALL of our local schools.

Citrus Heights has supported our schools since cityhood’s inception in 1997. It was suggested by the speaker at our council meeting that if the City Council voted to support ARCA (which we did), that it would erode our support of our existing schools. That will not be the case.

We continue to dedicate two CHPD School Resource officers, fully funded by the city and at no cost to SJUSD. We are closely involved in the MVHS Career Pathways Public Safety Academy, including having police interns working at the police station. We have school staff on the board of our Police Activities League, overseen by our Youth and Family Services Division. We also have student interns who work at City Hall.

ARCA is endorsed by the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce, City Council and Supervisor Sue Frost.

This Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m., the Sacramento County Board of Education will hear the appeal for ARCA. They are located at 10474 Mather Blvd, in Mather. I will attend and urge the County Board to approve this charter.

We need this educational option in Citrus Heights. This is not just a matter of better education, but of economic prosperity as well, to attract families and businesses with employees needing homes. I urge you to join me and voice your opinion in person or by sending an email to the board at their website

Jeannie Bruins

Jeannie Bruins is a Citrus Heights council member, where she has been serving since first being elected in 2002. She can be contacted at

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