VUSD goes new with old schools
By Reggie Ellis
visalia – A couple of county schools tied together by history will get a makeover as they will soon be home to sister charter schools.
At its May 23 meeting, the Visalia Unified School Board unanimously authorized staff to apply for modernization funds and new construction funds to upgrade two school sites for Sycamore Valley Academy and Blue Oak Academy.
The site of Sycamore Valley, located at 6832 Avenue 280 in Visalia west of Highway 99, is the former site of Packwood School while the future site of Blue Oak, located at 28050 Rd 148 in Visalia just east of the city limits, is the former site of Union School. Sycamore Valley Academy has been located at the former Packwood site since 2011 and Blue Oak will open on the Union campus this fall. That campus currently houses the District’s dependent charter school, Charter Alternatives Academy, which will be relocated to the former Elbow site in Ivanhoe at the end of this academic year.
According to VUSD records, both schools were founded on Aug. 8, 1865 and both were part of the unification of Visalia schools in 1965, when they were absorbed as fully functioning elementary schools. Packwood and Union were elementary until the 1990s when they were shut down.
“We have used them intermittently since then,” said Superintendent Dr. Todd Oto.
In his report to the board, Oto said VUSD is applying for over $1 million from the Office of Public School Construction to modernize a 5,700-square foot building built in 1960, and $837,000 to add three portable classrooms to accommodate an enrollment of 500 students at the former Packwood campus. Similarly, the district will apply for $3.2 million to modernize two buildings, one built in 1952 and the other in 1987, and another $3 million to add 11 portable classrooms to accommodate 500 students at the former Union campus.
While both of the schools are chartered by the Tulare County Office of Education, they are still VUSD facilities. Oto said the district is required to provide charter school students living within the district access to public school facilities that are “reasonably equivalent” under Proposition 39. Passed in 2000, Prop. 39 amended the California Education Code to require districts to accommodate all of the charter school’s interdistrict students if they are operating at facilities within the district and if the charter school is projected to have at least 80 students enrolled from within the district.
School districts are allowed to charge charter schools for use of district facilities under Prop. 39. The law provides two alternatives for the district to charge charter schools annually for the use of facilities: a pro rata share charge or an oversight fee.