BARSTOW A Victorville-based charter school is looking to open a satellite campus at Barstow Community College, and is facing opposition from Barstow Unified School District officials.

Excelsior Education Center is in preliminary talks with BCC about housing a couple of classrooms and offices on the college campus as soon as the 2009-10 school year, according to Excelsior Public Relations Official Sharon Boyer.

Sixty-eight students from Barstow, ranging from 7th through 12th grade, are currently enrolled in Excelsior's independent study program, where students and parents meet periodically with Excelsior instructors, but then work on assignments and take tests at home.

BUSD Superintendent Susan Levine said she opposes the idea of Excelsior expanding in Barstow, but acknowledged its possibility.

"They do have the right to come set up shop in our town," said Levine.

"That's one less student that goes to Barstow Unified," she said.

Excelsior currently has an office on East Williams Street, which has one classroom and two teachers. Students in the charter program, which is free, visit the classrooms only for supplemental workshop sessions and do most of their work at home, said Boyer. Opening up classrooms at BCC would mainly be a result of relocating their East Williams Street office, said Boyer.

"When the student body grows, the programs will grow," she said.

Boyer said Excelsior aims to model its BCC satellite campus after its program at Victor Valley College, where it serves 1,000 students and is chartered by the Victor Valley Union High School District.

Boyer said some parents who choose to send their students to charter schools become more involved in their child's education.

"With Excelsior, we have parents coming in and meeting with a facilitator once or twice a month," said Boyer.

There are "no surprises with the report cards," she said.

However, some BUSD officials disagree.

"Not everybody can function well in independent study," said Mike Dennis, BUSD director of pupil services.

Dennis noted that parents often look to charter schools when students are having discipline issues and opt to enroll in an independent study program.

"In some cases this is an escape," said Dennis.

The program at VVC also focuses on having high school students take high school and college courses simultaneously. Students in college courses have access to the campus computer labs, libraries and other services, which would serve ninth- through twelfth-graders, but not seventh and eighth. The BCC program would follow suit, said Boyer.

Excelsior at VVC also has its own sports teams and competes in the Agape League, according to Boyer.

Curt Mitchell, BCC acting president, said Excelsior contacted the college last week about the possibility of setting up a satellite campus.
Levine is planning to meet with Mitchell on Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of a local charter school.

Levine also said that BUSD has begun planning to expand its own independent study program at Central High School for the upcoming year, a move the district made prior to being contacted by Excelsior.

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(760) 256-4122 or elee@desertdispatch.com