A split site has been approved in Aliso Viejo for Oxford Preparatory Academy (OPA), assuming Oxford’s charter is approved by the Capo Board on February 8. The District was legally obligated to study and propose a site because Oxford’s number of prospective students exceeded the threshhold necessary to put the onus on Capo. The District staff disclosed the locations in a specially called Board meeting Tuesday.
The District is proposing an allocation of 11 K-5 classrooms at Foxborough Elementary and 5 classrooms at Aliso Viejo Middle School for grades 6-8, both in the City of Aliso Viejo. About 1,500sf would be allowed for administration. The distance between the schools is about 2.2 miles or 7 minutes travel time. [Map]
Part of the Foxborough facility is already being leased to two other schools, but those leases expire at the end of this school year. Staff proposes cutting space for Journey Charter School in half, and entirely terminating a lease for the private Niguel Children’s Center Preschool. As part of the Board’s approval, staff was instructed to work with Oxford and Journey to see if the arrangement could be improved.
Oxford hoped to move into the closed O’Neill Elementary School in Mission Viejo last Fall. It’s 300-page charter was approved by the Chino District last year, and a location granted there for 2010-2011, but a proposed charter in SVUSD for Mission Viejo was scuttled largely by the efforts and influence of former Superintendent Steven Fish in one of his pre-retirement acts. O’Neill is about 5 miles and 15 minutes from Foxborough.
OPA was subsequently attracted by the demographics of the adjacent Capo District and submitted its proposed charter there a few months ago. Nearly 600 students, 500 from CUSD and 100 from SVUSD, were submitted by parents as intended students.
Charter schools have been strongly endorsed by both state and federal education policies, but are largely opposed by teacher unions. Following November’s election gains by union-backed candidates, the CUSD Board is more evenly split between liberal and conservative factions. So the charter debate could result in a 4-3 vote, assuming Oxford finds the split campus offer acceptable.
The costs to the District in franchising a charter school are legally irrelevant in the approval process. The District is estimating those expenses, however, will be about $700,000. About $500,000 would be a one-time startup expense, with $200,000 in recurring annual expense. Charter schools are state-funded non-tuition public schools with some District oversight, but they are separate non-profit organizations operating under their own Boards of Directors. Capo has calculated Oxford’s lease payments to the District at $2.95 per square foot per year, totalling over $68,000.
Oxford’s instructional approach is to create a college-themed atmosphere which prepares K-8 students to pursue university level academic studies. The curriculum is designed to teach critical thinking and instill self-motivation. The strategy is based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, known as MI, created by Harvard Professor Howard Gardner in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind.