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New School informs Supervisors of situation


Last updated 11/24/2006 at Noon

Representatives from The New School, which has encountered problems with the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use over permitting issues, took their dissatisfaction with DPLU to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Because the four speakers from The New School made their remarks during the public comment session of the supervisors’ November 15 meeting, no action could be taken that day. However, the speakers felt that some of the supervisors were sympathetic.

“We’re hopeful,” said Kay Dundas, who is a parent of students attending The New School.

A total of 29 representatives of The New School made the trip to San Diego for that morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting. In addition to Dundas, parents Jack Faircloth and Jess Moore and founding director Sue Miller Hurst addressed the supervisors.

“We are one of the state’s best performing schools,” Hurst said.

The New School had an average score of 915 on the state’s API test.

Faircloth’s 8-year-old son was diagnosed with dyslexia two years ago but now reads at a fourth-grade level. “With a small dedicated staff she seems to do the impossible,” Faircloth said of Hurst.

“Right now these people are advancing significantly,” Dundas said of The New School’s students.

The New School is a charter school but is not within the elementary school district which chartered it. The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District has opted to rely on its Iowa Street School for alternative education rather than supporting any charter schools, and while the Vallecitos School District sponsored The New School as a charter school the Vallecitos district boundaries in Rainbow didn’t allow for any land suitable for another school.

“There were no properties to lease, and there were no properties to buy with sewer,” said Dundas, noting that The New School spent two years searching for a property in Rainbow before finding a four-parcel site in the Fallbrook Village area.

“We are on four parcels that are zoned for schools of 50 or less. We have only 100 with a right to 200,” Hurst said.

On three occasions representatives from The New School, including consultants, were told by DPLU that permits from the county were not needed since public schools are under state jurisdiction. However, earlier this year the county closed one of the school’s modular buildings without advance notice and displaced the children whose studies were based in that building. “Now the DPLU assesses that we are illegally located where we are,” Hurst said.

The fire code limits the number of students in the indoor buildings, so the closure of the modular building has forced students to be rotated between indoor and outdoor arrangements.

“It breaks up the continuity of the classroom,” Moore said. “This situation has negatively impacted our family and specifically my younger daughter.”

Moore’s younger daughter, a first-grader, was one of the students who was in the modular building. “She’s out there in the elements and she’s physically suffering,” Moore said. “Still, she’s learning an incredible amount every day.”

Moore has two daughters at The New School. “I don’t think we’re asking for special treatment just because we’re one of the top schools,” he said. “What we’re asking is for you to help us where the system is failing us.”

DPLU has told The New School, whose lease on its current Elder Street building expires at the end of the school year, that a Major Use Permit would be needed to operate on any subsequent parcel it acquires. “We won’t have the resources as a small school to be able to afford a Major Use Permit,” Dundas said.

“What other school in the State of California needs a Major Use Permit?” Hurst said. “We find the DPLU position unreasonable since we’re a public school.”

DPLU’s contention has been that the school is not within the boundaries of the district which chartered it. While the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District has been reluctant to support any charter school, Hurst noted that one of the purposes of charter schools is to provide competition with public schools in order to improve performance. “Why would we have to seek approval of the very people we’re competing with?” she said.

Hurst noted that on October 18 the supervisors voted 5-0 to explore the exemption of local “boutique wineries” from a Major Use Permit. “We’re asking for the same possibility since we are a public school and one of the county’s best,” she said.

“We need this waiver accepted,” Dundas said. “Without this acceptance at the end of this year the school will probably close because our lease expires.”

The New School received its name from Hurst’s “new vision” of running a school differently from traditional educational methods. “A child’s education only takes a back seat to a child’s safety,” Faircloth said. “To me as a parent I’m ashamed at what seems to be a lack of concern shown to children.”

The New School is in the supervisorial district of Bill Horn. “This is a legal issue. County Counsel’s quite aware of it; so is DPLU,” Horn said. “We have to defer to County Counsel.”

Hurst had informed the supervisors that state-level officials have informed her that no county permit is needed. County Counsel will consider state opinions when making a recommendation to DPLU.

Hurst indicated that additional parents would be contacting the County Supervisors about the school’s troubles with DPLU. “We’re going to have to go forth with our own influence,” she said.


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