Leroy Greene Academy in Natomas was among 109 charter schools that opened in California this school year, pushing the number to more than 1,000 charters, according to the California Charter Schools Association.
By opening Leroy Greene Academy, Natomas Unified joined other state school districts that have opened their own charter schools in the face of stiff competition for students from independent charters.
School board president Lisa Kaplan said the newly revamped school will help the district compete with charter schools and will help make Natomas Unified a district of choice.
Fewer schools are being built in California and more and more often school district officials are looking to put charters in existing facilities, said Natomas Unified Superintendent Chris Evans.
The Leroy Greene Academy replaces Leroy Greene Middle School, which was shuttered at the end of the 2009-10 school year because of structural problems, according to district officials. The school also had been failing academically for a number of years.
"We needed to find a way to get our middle school to succeed," Kaplan said.
So, the district opted for the funding and flexibility that charter schools allow, Evans said. He said this includes the ability to choose textbooks, curriculum and staff.
Kaplan said the teachers at Leroy Greene Academy are not currently in a union but have the option to petition to join one if they choose.
"In our case, we had a school that was closed and we were going to open it," Evans said. "Why not take the opportunity to open it as a charter school?"
The school offers a visual arts and technology program, as well a business and marketing program. The 202 seventh- and eighth-grade students including two of Evans' children attend one hour longer than their counterparts at the other district schools.
The district will add a new grade at the school each year until it houses grades seven through 12. It will eventually have about 750 students.
Enrollment in California's charter schools increased by 17 percent over last year.
The schools now serve more than 484,000 students at 1,065 schools the highest number of charter schools and charter school students of any state in the country, according to a report released by the California Charter Schools Association last week.
"This growth comes despite intense funding, facilities and authorizing challenges faced by charter schools," said a news release from the organization.
More than 70,000 students were on waiting lists for charters last school year, according to its officials.
Once again this school year a majority of charters that opened are in the Los Angeles area 40. Sonoma County added 12 new charters, San Diego County 10 and Alameda County six.
The Sacramento region added six new charters this school year, two fewer than it did last year. Three of them, with a total of 401 students, are in the city of Sacramento. The three others, with a total of 806 students, are in Placer County.
The foothills have gained schools that primarily focus on independent study, while two of the three new urban charters mainly focus on closing the minority achievement gap.
Sacramento's new charters include Leroy Greene Academy in Natomas, as well as Oak Park Preparatory and William Lee College Prep in the Oak Park neighborhood.
Placer County's charters include Forest Charter School, Alta Vista Community Charter School and Placer County Pathways Charter School.
Two charter schools in the region closed before the beginning of the school year: Gold Oaks Arts Charter in El Dorado County and the California Aerospace Academy, an independent charter in the Twin Rivers Unified School District.
Gold Oaks Arts Charter closed because of financial difficulties, while the California Aerospace Academy did not renew its charter, according to the California Charter Schools Association.