Horizon Charter Schools won't reopen in Rocklin

Published: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2B

Horizon Charter Schools will not reopen a school it closed a month ago in Rocklin because it lacks community support, school officials announced this week.

The school had included an accelerated learning academy for third- through eighth-grade students and a science, math and engineering academy for high school students.

On Tuesday, Horizon officials confirmed they are closing their entire accelerated learning program, which also includes kindergarten through second-grade classes housed at a site in Lincoln. The program will end Dec. 21.

"It became clear that the program, in its current form, is largely unwelcome to the community upon whose support the program itself depends," Horizon said in a prepared statement.

An official at Horizon could not say how many students would be affected at the Lincoln Life Center site, although parents put the number at about 80.

A Montessori school for kindergarten through eighth grade and the school's administration offices will remain at the site, said Brenda Clark, administration support supervisor at Horizon.

Academy students can be home-schooled with the same curriculum they are currently using in their classes, Clark said. There are openings in the second grade at the Montessori school, but all other grade levels have waiting lists, she said.

The announcement came after a month of acrimony between school officials and parents that started when the closure of the Rocklin school site was announced.

Parents were upset about the change, which came with less than a week's notice.

"They have been very rather disrespectful," Clark said of the parents, but added, "They are upset and we totally understand it."

A letter from a parent group sums it up this way: "This has taken its toll on everyone. Good, loving people have acted out of character and for understandable reasons."

The Rocklin school – which had 390 students – was shuttered after Placer County officials said only 75 students were allowed under current permitting rules to be in the facility being leased in an industrial park. School officials also cited traffic safety problems for the closure.

It was one of a number of Horizon campuses in Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties, serving 1,428 students, according to state data.

In October, Horizon CEO Craig Heimbichner asked parents to be patient while school leaders sought a new site and to remain with the charter in a home-school program.

Since then, more than a third of the program's 200 students have left the program, according to parents. Many of those still with Horizon are meeting at homes, libraries or public meeting rooms in an attempt to keep classes together or to accommodate parents unable to home-school their children.

Keiko Chang said her son's class of 20 third-graders met at a library a few times, but had to split into two groups to hold classes at family homes. Her son's group moved from house to house on whatever days or times worked for the homeowners.

The group recently found a permanent home to use from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each school day. Each family pays $3 a day to cover insurance, Chang said.

But the children may not be nomads for long; teachers are attempting to open a private school, while parents are working with another charter school organization to start a program in the Roseville area, according to parents.

The program is expected to use the same Core Knowledge and project-based instruction that Horizon had used in its accelerated academy, said parent Laura Daggett.

She said her first-grade daughter has made huge gains in the program. "You can't imagine the difference between August and now," Daggett said.

The only school that teaches with the Core Knowledge program is Rocklin Academy, which has a lengthy waiting list, she said.

Horizon has put administrator Dennis Craft in charge of helping families transition their students to their home school option or to help them find another school, Clark said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert

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