By the time the 2023-24 school year starts, a new charter school is anticipated to have opened within the Capistrano Unified School District.
California Republic Leadership Academy has announced a possible campus site on San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano and is open for student enrollment.
CRLA, which will have a classical-focused educational curriculum and emphasize the concept of servant leadership, recently had its charter approved by the Orange County Board of Education after the CUSD Board of Trustees had rendered split votes on whether to approve the petition.
“We’re really grateful to the OCBE for their approval and vote of confidence,” said San Clemente parent Kevin Pratt, one of the lead petitioners for CRLA. “They were very good to work with and, just being in those meetings, you get a sense of how much parents appreciate them. We are thrilled we get to bring CRLA to families in the area.”
Pratt said the school will enroll as many students as their space will accommodate.
“That exact number is not known yet, but I would expect a minimum of 120 students,” he said. “We’re already nearing that in actual enrollment, but we hope to have space for more.”
The San Juan Creek site was reportedly proposed by CUSD, following a request by CRLA for campus space under Proposition 39—a state law that allows charter schools to ask districts for use of school facilities.
Pratt said the location was formerly a tutoring site. It is currently vacant and owned by CUSD.
“If we get to terms with CUSD, then we will pay rent,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate the approval didn’t happen through CUSD, but we still consider them an important partner and look forward to continuing our good working relationship,” Pratt continued. “CUSD staff were at our hearings with OCBE and have been cordial and professional throughout.”
CUSD staff had recommended CRLA’s charter not be approved because of a number of concerns with the petitioners’ proposal, including a perception that the curriculum was vague and anticipated adverse financial impacts to the district.
OCBE staff had no concerns about CRLA’s fiscal prospects.
No teachers have officially been hired yet for CRLA.
“That will happen in the coming months,” Pratt said. “However, we are accepting applications and have had several well-qualified educators and potential staff members reaching out to us to inquire about teaching and serving at CRLA.”
CRLA will also require student uniforms, prohibit children access to smartphones during the school day and promote respect between students and teachers. The school will use the FranklinCovey “Leader in Me” program as an educational foundation and intends to bring in mentors from the community to work with students.
Pratt said the school is “well on our way” when asked how the general process has gone so far with opening the school.
“The two most important next steps, finding a location and finding an excellent principal, have fallen into place,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to do, but with those two things in place, we are confident we can be ready.”
CRLA’s petition to start a new charter school had elicited some backlash from residents over concerns that the school could take over existing campus space and the use of public funds for a charter school.
Charter schools are public schools generally open to all students and which receive public funding, though they differ from traditional schools in that their curriculum and general operations are separate from the usual public school model.
Some critics feel charter schools are essentially private schools and contribute to the downfall of the public education system, while proponents maintain they offer a healthy alternative for students and parents.
CRLA will hold an informational meeting for parents at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, located at 25925 Camino Del Avion, near Del Obispo Elementary School, on March 7 at 6:30 p.m.
A CUSD spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, as of this post.
Visit calrepublicleadershipacademy.org for more information.