BARSTOW • The Barstow Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to allow a new charter school to set up shop in town under its supervision Tuesday.
But with the beginning of the school year just around the corner, Barstow Charter Academy will face significant challenges trying set up classrooms, buy textbooks and hire qualified teachers in time to be ready for students, according to board president Julie Clemmer.
"I think it's a tall order," she said.
The trustees voted in favor of chartering BCA for a one-year term and to allow BCA to delay its opening day to Sept. 22. The charter was granted on the condition that the school's petitioners submit several documents that provide details on school operations — ranging from employee sexual harassment training to a list of classroom textbooks — that spell out how BCA will be run.
After the 2009-10 school year, BCA will have to submit another petition to extend its charter. The trustees could have voted to charter BCA for between one to five years.
"My personal thought is that give them a year and see if they can pull it together," Clemmer said.
One of the main issues discussed at the board meeting was where BCA would hold classes. Lead petitioner Jennifer Ruiz asked the school board to allow BCA to use the vacated facilities at Barstow Intermediate School.
However, due to state rules that require petitioners to request the use of district sites by Nov. 1 2008 and show proof of at least 80 students intending to enroll in the charter, the board denied her request.
Ruiz also indicated that she would serve as principal of BCA, which proposes to target teens who have already dropped out of high school and provide them workforce training.
Ruiz said the charter school has been looking at a few different school site options. BCA is considering a two-story building near the corner of East Main Street and Seventh Avenue, located behind Barstow Flower & Bridal Boutique, according to David Zook, spokesman for First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt's office, which has thrown its support behind the school.
On Wednesday, Ruiz and Mayor Joe Gomez — from whom Ruiz has also solicited support — toured Barstow Mall to look at other options, said Zook. According to mall on-site representative Tim Vieira, Ruiz and Gomez checked out a 7,000-square-foot facility that was formerly a gym, and a 6,000-square-foot facility that used to be a pet store.
Several board members voiced concerns about whether BCA could be up and running in less than one month.
Ruiz acknowledged on Tuesday that the school year is rapidly approaching and that so far BCA has recruited only one teacher. Ruiz said she will be hiring teachers through an online service that many school districts also use.
So will BCA have all the materials, staff, and students recruited in time for the first day of school?
"We're making every concerted effort," Ruiz said Wednesday.
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