Despite feelings, Ross Valley Charter’s move is positive

A Marin IJ Editorial

Ross Valley Charter School’s opening in the old St. Rita’s Church elementary school campus should be welcomed by both supporters and critics of the charter school.

It has certainly been welcomed by the addition of nearly 40 more students attending the charter school, a multi-age classroom program that, ironically, actually got its start as a longstanding and popular Ross Valley School District offering.

Having its own campus is a plus.

It is also removes the conflicts of the school sharing space with White Hill Middle School’s programs, which the district contended the school was taking up much-needed space.

Relocating the charter school to St. Rita’s has drawn students from the Cascade Canyon School, a private school that had operated on that campus, and Heartwood Charter School, another charter that has moved it base to Petaluma, bringing its enrollment to 193 students.

The school’s enrollment is growing despite a local campaign criticizing the charter and urging parents to put their kids in district schools.

Luckily for parents, both the charter and the district’s schools offer strong programs.

Obviously, many parents see the charter’s multi-age classrooms curriculum as a better fit for their academic progress of their children.

Others, understandably, prefer the district’s programs.

Both can be — and should be — right.

Although relocation of the charter should provide an opportunity for the district to take a community leadership role in tapping down the ongoing debate, recent comments by the district casting the charter as “a direct competitor” and a threat to local public schools.

Such political dogma does nothing to calm the waters. Rather it only fuels resentment.

The district leadership should take the charter school’s relocation as a chance to focus on promoting the quality and achievement of its own schools and step above the fray, a deep-seated political divide that for too long has hovered over the district.

It also ignores that the district played a role in the formation of the charter. For many years, the multi-age program was a popular option offered at Manor School in Fairfax.

Challenges of providing more than one curricular option on a single campus rose to the level where parents and supporters of the multi-age program feared the district would end its program and began the process of forming a publicly funded charter.

Those fears were realized when the district board voted to end the multi-age program.

The relationship between the district and backers of that decision and supporters of the multi-age classroom program has eroded since then.

Critics of the charter school have conducted a community campaign to discourage parents from enrolling their children in the charter.

The charter’s move to St. Rita’s should be the opening of a door toward resolving this community divide.

The district’s leadership could lead the way.

The charter school’s efforts to move from White Hill and off of district-funded property is a major step toward resolving the local debate while leaving needed reforms in the state’s charter school system to decision making in Sacramento.

Local children should be encouraged to take pride and make progress in their local schools, whether they are public, private, traditional, parochial or alternative.

Children and their ability to get the education they need to achieve and excel should be the primary goal in every community.

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From IJ comments section: “Although relocation of the charter should provide an opportunity for the district to take a community leadership role in tapping down the ongoing debate, recent comments by the district casting the charter as “a direct competitor” and a threat to local public schools. Such political dogma does nothing to calm the waters. Rather it only fuels resentment. The district leadership should take the charter school’s relocation as a chance to focus on promoting the quality and achievement of its own schools and step above the fray, a deep-seated political divide that for too long has hovered… Read more »

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Agree. This is not about winning or losing. It’s not a competition. It’s public education, and making available options so people can choose what works best for their own children. Even the very best schools don’t work for every child, and private schools are not always an option–either due to cost or because a child doesn’t get admitted.