Families try to adjust as Horizon charter school closes in Rocklin

Published: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 - 11:12 pm

Luke Chaussee and his mother, Loriann, are searching for a new school.

The third-grader and 390 classmates were shut out of their charter school after Placer County officials told school officials they were allowed only 75 students in the buildings they were leasing in a Rocklin industrial park.

Horizon Charter Schools gave parents just five days' notice before shuttering the campus and offering a home-school option.

The site in the Sunset Industrial Area includes an accelerated learning academy and a science, math and engineering academy. It is one of a number of Horizon campuses in Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties, serving 1,428 students, according to state data.

Placer County planners acknowledged this week they had warned school officials that Horizon was out of compliance with its business license in Rocklin. The planning department issued a statement saying officials never told Horizon it had to immediately close the campus.

A week ago, school officials notified parents the campus site was being closed for student safety. There had been too many close calls between pedestrians and vehicles in the industrial park, officials said.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Horizon CEO Craig Heimbichner told parents that Horizon will continue to operate as a home-school option for the Rocklin students. He said students had been sent home with two weeks of homework, and that teachers would be contacting them with more instructions.

The home-schooling option will continue until the school can find a new facility, Heimbichner said.

But many parents at Tuesday's meeting said they were skeptical and were looking for other options for their children.

Heimbichner addressed the overflowing room of unhappy parents at Creekside Church in Rocklin. He told the crowd the property manager had given the school notice. He said he wasn't aware of the 75-student cap until he was told by county planners. Arrangements for the Rocklin campus had been made by a company subleasing the property to Horizon, he said.

The business license for the facility was issued to Group Access Inc. for a distance resource learning center, according to county documents, rather than a complete classroom facility.

County officials wrote a letter to the company in September warning Group Access that it was out of compliance with building codes. The letter said tenants in the industrial park had contacted them, worried about student safety because of the transport vehicles using the industrial park.

A representative of Group Access Inc., reached by phone, refused to comment on the story.

Parents at the meeting Tuesday did not seem pacified by the reasons given for the school's closure.

"I wasn't convinced," said Mheyanne Davison.

She said Mira Loma High School is an option for her daughter R'Ianna, a freshman. "I don't want her to miss any days of school."

Luke Chaussee is one of two dozen or so students who moved to Horizon Charter after St. John's School in Roseville closed in May. His mother said she "flipped out" when she heard he would have to change schools again.

The Chaussees and other St. John's families spent months visiting school sites and hearing about potential moves that never happened. "We are just done," Loriann Chaussee said. "We're not sticking it out."

Meanwhile, Scott Leaman, superintendent of Western Placer Unified School District – which chartered Horizon – said other public schools in that district have space for students.

Heimbichner beseeched parents to keep their children enrolled with Horizon while it searches for a new campus. He said finding facilities is a challenge for charter schools unless "we get someone to sponsor it, like a big casino or something."

Some parents want to give the school a little time, saying they will give Heimbichner until Dec. 13 to find a new site.

Kristen Fazzino said she is committed to keeping her child in the school's home-study program until the deadline.

Yet, she is worried. What she learned at Tuesday's meeting, she said, "wasn't very reassuring."

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Read more articles by Diana Lambert

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