Napa County Office of Education Compliments Mayacamas Charter School Plan – But Concerns About Tax Risk to School District | Local News

A new assessment of a charter school planned for Napa generally complements its mission and educational model — but also warns that its creation could hurt the finances of the school district that previously shot the project down.

The request to create Mayacamas Charter Middle School, a technology-focused academy for students in grades 6 through 8, won generally favorable reviews in a study compiled by the Napa County Office of Education and released Monday.

Supporters of the independent school, slated to open in August at a former Catholic school in downtown Napa, have called on the county agency to reverse the school district board’s December rejection of their plan. Napa Valley United, which blasted the proposal as poorly organized and a dangerous drain on district funds and personnel.

The NCOE board, which held a hearing on the plan last month, is due to vote to approve or deny Mayacamas at its March 15 meeting. If blocked by the county board, the charter application may be appealed to the state board of education.

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The Napa County report’s largely optimistic view of Mayacamas’ prospects stands in stark contrast to the school’s run-in with the NVUSD in recent months, in which charter advocates have accused the district of hostility to schools not under his full control and suggested that a rejection would drive more families into private schools.

However, the favorable NCOE review comes with a major caveat – one the agency has suggested could justify rejection of an otherwise worthy school startup.

With NVUSD enrollment steadily declining since the mid-2010s, opening a charter school in the district—for which it would not receive its normal per-student funding from California—could lead to the insolvency of the school system and a takeover by the state at least a year earlier. this decade than not in 2025-26, the county office said in its assessment. Such a conclusion, according to the report, could give the NCOE board reason to veto Mayacamas on the grounds that it, by undermining other NVUSD schools, is “unlikely to serve the interests of the community”. ‘whole community’ where it would operate.

Napa’s public school system will enter 2022-23 after closing four schools in two years and canceling American Canyon’s planned second college, as its leaders scramble to keep its reserve funds from falling below 3 % of budget – a threshold that would allow California to take charge of its finances.

“NVUSD will have to significantly reduce its workforce and programs over the next two years if it is to remain financially solvent; NVUSD has recognized as such,” according to the authors of the NCOE report. “NVUSD is probably going to have to close more schools, with or without (Mayacamas). The further loss of students to (Mayacamas) only exacerbates this need.

“…The NCOE is required by law to protect the financial health of school districts in Napa County,” the report said. “The NCOE is therefore required to review the financial condition of NVUSD and to intervene if and when NVUSD is in budgetary difficulty. It is under this obligation that the NCOE expresses reservations about granting the petition. »

Funding cuts will threaten school districts in Napa and across the state starting in the fall. An emergency policy that began in March 2020 – when the arrival of COVID-19 led schools to months of distance learning at home forced by social distancing rules – has supported education funding for the higher number of pre-pandemic students, but this policy will expire before 2022-2023, resetting revenue per student to actual attendance – and for Napa, lower – to current attendance.

According to the NCOE authors, one change that could stem some of the state funding losses from opening a new charter school is California’s expansion of transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds. . The rollout, which will take place in stages through 2025-26, will increase the Napa School District‘s average daily attendance by about 460, according to the report.

Despite these concerns about Mayacamas’ potential spillover effect on its parent school district, the Napa County report was otherwise far more optimistic than NVUSD officials about its chances of academic success, and said the school should receive its charter unless it can be shown to undermine the health of existing schools or its district as a whole.

Mayacamas’ promise to use a curriculum based on that of Napa’s New Technology High School would give tweens a natural on-ramp to project-based online learning, as well as strong college preparation and careers, according to NCOE staff. In addition, the report praised charter school proponents’ emphasis on special attention from teachers to students as a way to claw back many benefits from River Middle School, a former NVUSD charter academy that will close in June.

Mayacamas’ application, filed in September by the nonprofit Napa Foundation for Options in Education, envisions an August opening with 180 students at 983 Napa St. in the former home of St. John the Baptist Catholic School, which closed in 2020. Enrollment would gradually increase to 336 by its fourth year, 2025-26, according to the application filing.

Since the Mayacamas school’s leading candidates, Lauren Daley and Jolene Yee, filed the plan in September, the project has pitted charter supporters calling for alternatives to conventional charter schools against principals, teachers and board members. directors of NVUSD, who argued that the school would only benefit a fraction of students at the expense of others.

Tuesday’s calls to Daley and Yee were not immediately returned.

Later Tuesday, NVUSD Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti reiterated the district’s stance against granting charter to Mayacamas, saying the resulting flight of college students would deprive the school system of approximately $2 million in public funding per student and force further budget cuts – and undo budget stabilization. measures that NVUSD began implementing three years ago after the county education office warned against deficit spending.

“In their hands is a decision that could get us back to where we started,” she said of the NCOE’s power to endorse the Mayacamas school, criticizing what she called the analysis summary of new report on charter school finances.

Mucetti also denied that Mayacamas would provide services not already offered by Napa-area schools, pointing to the district’s gradual addition of middle grades to two elementary schools – Browns Valley and Shearer – to provide an option for smaller school. (Both campuses will welcome sixth-grade students starting in August, and Shearer will also teach seventh-grade.)

The only charter school currently operating within NVUSD is Stone Bridge, which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade and offers a low-tech Waldorf curriculum. Stone Bridge is in its first year at the old Mt. George Elementary campus in the Coombsville area after moving from its old Carneros campus, which was damaged in the 2014 earthquake.

You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or [email protected]

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