Ross Valley Charter School (RVC), a TK-5 public charter school in Fairfax, filed a petition today to require Ross Valley School District (RVSD) to follow California law and treat RVC’s public school students fairly in its allocation of facilities. The petition was filed in Marin Superior Court. Click here to see the full text of the petition.
Over the last two months, RVC has repeatedly asked the District to meet and discuss the District’s Proposition 39 offer so that the expense and drama of court could be avoided. RVSD’s continuing refusal to meet with RVC to try to resolve the disagreement about the facility offer leaves RVC with no choice but to pursue a resolution through the courts as soon as possible so that both RVC and the District can make time-sensitive plans for next year.
This dispute is about the District’s under-allocation of classroom space for RVC’s in-district students next year. The Proposition 39 law states that public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school students, including those attending charter schools, in the same proportions as they are provided to students attending similar district schools.
The District and RVC have agreed on RVC’s projected enrollment of 144 in-district students for 2018-19, which is 45% or just under half of the average projected RVSD enrollment of 319 students per elementary school. Under Proposition 39, this means that RVC should receive nearly half the amount of space a typical K-5 RVSD elementary school provides to its students. Each of the four elementary schools in the district has at least 22 classrooms, and RVC should be provided at least 10 classrooms.
The District offered only 6 classrooms to RVC for next year, which is two fewer classrooms than RVC is using this year. All eight of RVC’s current classrooms are filled with homeroom classes of students.
“The District is trying to shrink our school, while many local parents are asking us to grow,” said RVC board chair Sharon Sagar. RVC started with 122 students in August 2017 and has added almost 40 new students through mid-year transfers, including adding two new teachers and homeroom classes. Another 112 new students have already applied to attend the school next year, and RVC will continue accepting applications on a rolling basis throughout the year.
The District’s egregiously non-compliant offer made on January 31, 2018 to RVC only includes enough classrooms for six homerooms and no classrooms for other specialized purposes. In comparison, 40% of the 93 total classrooms in RVSD’s four elementary schools are used for special education, resource, art, music, child care, computer labs, meeting rooms, and other specialized purposes. This is the second year in a row that the District has under-allocated facility space to RVC based on projected enrollment.
The District’s offer of six classrooms to RVC hinges on false claims. For example, the District claims that it does not provide art, music, and childcare facilities for District elementary school students, therefore it does not need to offer RVC any space for these purposes. In reality, music, art, and childcare facilities are provided by the District to all District elementary students, and the 2010 local bond measure was marketed to voters based on the need to build facilities to provide these very spaces. The District also claims that RVC’s main office — which is the only secure entry point for the school and is often bustling with staff and parent/student activity — would be an appropriate place for RVC to deliver federally mandated special education services to students with learning disabilities.
“RVC is grateful for the eight classrooms it is currently renting on the White Hill campus to serve the many local families who have chosen this progressive, multi-age educational environment for their children,” said Sharon Sagar.
“This is not the path we would like to go down,” Sagar concluded. “But since the District is unwilling to meet we have no other choice than to ask the Court to ensure that the District follows the law and treats all public school students fairly, including RVC public school students.”
BACKGROUND ON RVC AND CHARTER SCHOOLS:
Ross Valley Charter School (RVC) is an engaging, joyful, progressive educational environment that puts children’s needs and interests in the center. It features multi-age classes that create strong bonds between students and teachers and includes families to create a caring community of learners. The innovative teaching methods emphasize hands-on, project-based learning and integration of art, music and performances into all subjects. Learn more about Ross Valley Charter School at www.rvcs.org
RVC was authorized in January 2016 based on a recommendation for approval from the California Department of Education by a unanimous vote of the California State Board of Education. It opened August 23, 2017 at 101 Glen Drive, Fairfax, CA. Charter schools are free, public schools open to all students, just like district-run schools. Charter schools must accept all California residents, not only students that reside within district geographic boundaries.
RVC’s recruitment efforts and enrollment preferences for low-income and English Learner students helped create a “diverse by design” student body with three times more low-income students than the District (25% vs. 8%) and four times more English Learners (14% vs. 3%)
Charter schools have received bipartisan support in California for many years. California has over 1,200 public charter schools today, serving over 600,000 students. The State Legislature authorized the creation of charter schools in order to promote innovative teaching methods and to provide parents with choices within the free, public school system.
Marin County is far behind other bay area counties in terms of providing free public school choices to local families. Statewide and in the Bay Area, 8% of California’s public school students are enrolled in charter schools today. Only 2% of Marin’s K-12 school students currently attend charter schools.
Approximately 43% of California charter schools today operate in district-owned school facilities made available either via Prop 39 or in-lieu agreements.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Sharon Sagar, Ross Valley Charter School Board Chair firstname.lastname@example.org