Working out the details of the project with members of the Banta School District Board, Superintendent William Draa said the school will open August 2013 as a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade establishment. He said each year another grade level will be added, and hopefully by the time there are 1,200 to 1,500 students in attendance, the district will be ready to separate the high school.
He said the school district’s ultimate dream is to bring in a college to cap the campus off at grade 16.
“That’s the goal,” echoed project director Susan Dell’Osso, who oversees the proposed 30-acre campus site at River Islands in Lathrop. She said the timeline for construction of the homes there depends upon the housing market and won’t likely begin until 2013 or later, eventually building out to 11,000 homes.
The school will be situated in the town center district of the project, but will fall under the jurisdiction of the Banta School District.
Since it will be owned by Banta, officials still have to work out the details as to whether they want to charge River Islands a rental fee or waive rent and charge them up to 3 percent in oversight fees annually. Draa said officials don’t want outrageous fees that could cause fiscal failure.
Once a fee structure is in place, Banta attorney and charter expert Marisa Lincoln said the district can review the school’s status annually and make adjustments accordingly.
Assistant Superintendent Albert Garibaldi said the campus should be completed by January 2013 and some programs should begin before the August opening. He said having the campus empty for nearly eight months would be a recipe for vandalism or another group demanding to use it for a different educational program.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Garibaldi said. “We’ve got to find children to fill those seats.”
He said Banta plans to market the school to children across San Joaquin County.
Because the school will focus on technology, board member Steve Weinzapfel questioned whether officials conducted a poll to see what type of technology people wanted at the school. Garibaldi said that hasn’t yet been done.
When questioned by parents about the possibility of Banta School losing students to the charter, Garibaldi said it was rare for parents to relocate students if they are happy with their current educational program. He stressed, however, that Banta School must keep up to remain attractive to parents.
Board President Frank Silva expressed concern about having too many students want to attend the charter once River Islands builds out its housing. Garibaldi said the district would probably start with 400 students and leave room for River Islands residents.
Lincoln explained that students can attend a charter school from anywhere in the state, but children can’t be forced to go to a charter.
Dell’Osso said she needed a verbal agreement by Oct. 1 from Banta School District officials if the project is a go or no-go. She asked the board Tuesday night if there were any red flags in anything they have addressed so far, and board members said they were satisfied with the progress. Additional open-to-the-public charter workshops are being planned for the coming weeks.