OCEANSIDE — Safety concerns prompted City Council to deny a proposed charter high school in the Mission Square Shopping Center on North Horne Street in a 3-2 vote Feb. 2, with Councilmen Jerry Kern and Gary Felien voting against the denial.Numerous residents spoke of gang activity and recent stabbings in the immediate area. They said another high school across the street from Oceanside High School would add to the problems.
“The location is in the middle of two rival gangs,” Maria Russell, an Eastside community resident, said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
“I’m a mother of a murdered child,” Concha Green, an Eastside community resident, said. “I know what it’s like. There are plenty of other places in Oceanside where these kids wouldn’t be in danger.”
“There have been two murders in Eastside in the last six months,” Diane Studer, Eastside community resident, said. “I’m very concerned about this location. Until you’ve lived in my neighborhood, don’t tell me you don’t believe it.”
Police Chief Frank McCoy said that a high school located on North Horne Street would increase police service calls.
“There are all kinds of areas that are safe to locate a charter school,” McCoy said.
Representatives of the charter school said their research showed the area was safe. The Mission Square Shopping Center development representative also defended the shopping center as a being safe location.
“We work hard to maintain security and have security on site,” Lars Andersen of Pacific Development Partners said. “Yes there was a stabbing behind Wendy’s (restaurant), but for the most part we have no problems.”
There was also a concern that the proposed charter school would not be working with the public school district to gain complete background information on students and co-monitor students’ performance.
“There is no communication with Oceanside (Unified) School District,” Russell said. “Students’ success should be monitored by both entities.”
“They need to know why these kids are expelled,” Oceanside Unified School District Superintendent Larry Perondi said.
The proposed charter school would serve approximately 500 high school students who would attend school one hour a week to meet with an instructor. Tutoring sessions would also be available.
“We serve high-risk or at-risk students,” said Armando Martinez, principal of the proposed school and current principal of Diego Hills Charter School. “It’s a second chance we give them. They can take two credits per week and make up for lost time. The bottom line is the kids benefit.”
Martinez added that many students are young mothers, are working full time, or are older than 18 and need an alternative to public school.
Several speakers agreed that an alternative school would be beneficial.
“No matter how you design a school you cannot come up with a system that serves every student,” Mike Croghan, a retired teacher and university professor, said. “Some students are emancipated at age 13 and looking for some other option.”
“To say no to a creation of a charter school in Oceanside is to say children don’t deserve access to a quality education in the neediest communities,” said Kern, the co-founder of Pacific View Charter School in Oceanside.
Other speakers pointed out the school district currently runs a variety of alternative programs for high school students that include flexible hours and home study.
Councilman Jack Feller said he is a supporter of charter schools, but did not think the location was safe for students after sitting in the shopping center parking lot for a few hours. He added that within that time he broke up a fight.
“There must be some other location,” Feller said.