The Knightsen School Board approved the facility lease agreement between the New Jerusalem and Knightsen Elementary school districts last week to open the Delta Academy for Technology and the Arts – a satellite campus of the Delta Charter School in the New Jerusalem district – at Old River Elementary School.
The contract – approved in a 4-0 vote by the Knightsen School Board (the fifth member was absent) – provides for the use of classrooms in the C building of Old River as well as the administrative offices and cafeteria. Old River Elementary was forced to close its doors two years ago due to financial difficulties.
“We’re very excited about the agreement,” said Bill Redford, director of business services and development for the New Jerusalem School District, which will oversee the educational programs and day-to-day running of the school. “It’s a beautiful facility and we are happy to be here.”
The financial agreement calls for Knightsen to receive a minimum of $50,000 annually from New Jerusalem and a to-be-determined portion of the revenue generated by the ADA (Average Daily Attendance), estimated at around $5,900 per year per student.
Redford said the district hopes to open its doors in September to approximately 100 new students from areas such as Mountain House, Discovery Bay and Brentwood.
For the struggling Knightsen district, there is no denying the financial boon that revenue from the charter could provide. The district currently owes an annual $265,000 on a bank loan that was secured to finish Old River School, and Knightsen Superintendent Theresa Estrada concedes the extra funds will help.
“This (loan) has been a huge drain on our budget, given the lease payments to the state,” said Estrada. “So, yes, I am happy to have someone in there.”
But for other area school districts, the arrival of the Delta Charter might not be as welcome. The neighboring Liberty Union High School District (LUHSD) – home to five high schools including alternative school Independence High – stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue should district students opt out in favor of the new charter.
“I am very, very happy with the independent study program within our district,” said LUHSD Superintendent Eric Volta. “And I think if people compare the two programs and the measure of support our students receive at Independence and our other schools, it will speak volumes about the programs we provide in our district.”
While the introduction of charter schools in East County is still a novelty (there are only two, both in Antioch) it isn’t unusual for local school districts with empty facilities to rent out space in an effort to offset costs.
Rick Rogers, superintendent of the Oakley Union Elementary School District (OUESD), has done just that with Almond Grove Elementary School. The school was built in 2008 in anticipation of the increase in the housing market, but was never opened. For a time, the district leased the site to a private Christian school until the arrangement was dissolved in August of 2011. However, with the arrival of the Lynn Center – an early-intervention and preschool program for special needs children – last August, the OUESD now maintains a physical presence on site and the Lynn Center has a new home.
“It’s been a win-win for both our district and the special needs students at the Lynn Center,” said Rogers. “They are benefiting from an underutilized facility, and we’re able to bring this program to our community and many of our students who would have normally had to have been transported to Pittsburg. It’s a nice arrangement.”
Redford is hopeful the new deal with Knightsen will be a nice arrangement as well. “We have had a lot of interest from the Discovery Bay and Brentwood area from students that already travel to our Tracy location,” said Redford. “So we know there are a number of families interested in what we have to offer. We’re excited about providing a great service.”