Silver Wing Elementary parents showed up at a special board meeting on February 26 in hopes of convincing Chula Vista Elementary School District trustees not to construct a charter high school on their elementary campus.
High school opponents packed the boardroom, gathered 361 signatures on a petition opposing the proposal, and garnered support from San Diego City Council member David Alvarez — to no avail.
Some parents reiterated concerns voiced on February 19. Again, transparency was the concern: parents insisted they had never been included in discussions about the permanent placement of the high school.
One Silver Wing mother told the board that her two daughters will not be able to attend the high school because those students are selected by lottery or must come up through the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter system.
Ron Marcus, an elementary-school teacher and member of the executive board of the Chula Vista Elementary Education Association, asked the board if they had done a traffic study to see how the high school would impact the neighborhood.
Marcus also stated that San Diego Unified charges charter schools fair market price to rent district land. He asked, “What price is [the charter school] paying?”
The district stated they do not charge dependent charters rent. Chula Vista Learning Community Charter is a dependent charter, one of many that pay for district services but not for land use.
The construction contracts for the charter high school total $3,431,000. Oscar Esquivel, assistant superintendent of business services, stated that the charter is responsible for payments on a loan taken out in 2013. The district took out the $6,845,000 federally taxable loan for “charter school improvements.”
Roberto Rodriguez, president of the Sweetwater Education Association, also addressed the board and said that, due to a previous court ruling, the district is not obligated to charter high schools because “you are an elementary-school district — by definition the students that are attending the secondary grades at [the charter high school] would not be attending schools in your district; they would be attending Sweetwater.”
There were no speakers in favor of constructing the high school on the Silver Wing campus.
Superintendent Francisco Escobedo said the safety concerns of Silver Wing parents would be addressed with “a solid wall built around the school.” Escobedo also said, “The two schools will be communicating and have staggered start times.” He emphasized that the charter-high students are well behaved.
Before the meeting, on February 25, the U-T posted an article that included this statement: “[Trustee Francisco Tamayo] hopes the feedback from the February 18 parent meeting will be taken into consideration and the board will move forward with approving the items.”
Tamayo responded to a Reader query on March 1: “My opinion in the UT was based on my research of the item and previous items approved by the past board based on the minutes posted on the [elementary school district] website between 2012–2013.
“I felt that our hands were tied by the decisions and commitments made by the previous board, especially because the Charter High school has been on the campus for almost 3 years now. I wanted to find a solution that could address most of the Silver Wing parents’ concerns and still meet the previous commitment made by the past board to the students of [the charter high school].
“I don’t know what reasoning the previous board had that made them decide that having a high school share a campus with an elementary school was a good idea. I wish they would have worked with [the charter school] to help them find their own location so they could house both middle and high school together, which is their stated goal.
“Parents’ concerns about safety will be addressed. The communication between the District and Silver Wing parents and community needs to drastically improve.
“If the charter school continued to use [temporary structures] for their 12th grade, that would have taken more space in addition to the space taken by the 2 story building. Also it would have wasted the $600,000 already spent for permits and soil testing. I am not happy with the results of this Item, and I hope the Silver Wing community stays active!”
Rosa Surber, the parent of an elementary-school student, said via email, “It was very obvious the Chula Vista boardmembers had already made their decision to pass this motion no matter what parents and community had to say. Silver Wing does not have a declining student enrollment [charters are by law allowed to occupy schools with declining enrollment]. I have no interest in having my son attend this charter….”
Disclosure: The author has a daughter who teaches in the elementary school district and is a member of the bargaining team.