Two Natomas Charter Schools Plan 2011-12 Expansion

Two popular Natomas charter schools plan to grow their programs and increase enrollment starting the 2011-12 school year.

Natomas Charter School will continue to offer kindergarten and will add first grade classes to its Transitions Program. Westlake Charter School plans to increase enrollment over time, adding classes to its existing K-5 program and pursue a new charter middle school.
“Having children at both the Natomas Charter Transitions program and Westlake Charter School, I’m very excited at the plans for growth and expansion,” Natomas resident Nancy Kong-Vasquez said. “This will enable our Natomas families to have more choices within the district about what schools and programs will fit best for their children and their situations.

While Natomas parents may look forward to the growth, Natomas Unified School District officials worry the programs will draw students – and funds – away from traditional public schools. Historically, the district’s general population at its 13 other campus has seen a decline as charter schools opened or expanded.

“We will plan for that,” district Superintendent Bobbie Plough said. “…more than likely that means laying off teachers. If we don’t have enrollment, especially in our situation, there’s no room to carry an extra teacher or three or four.”

The Natomas Charter School started the Transitions Program this fall by offering kindergarten in two half-day sessions. Executive Director Charlie Leo said Transitions will be expanding to first grade next year so this year’s kindergarten students will grow with the program.

Westlake Charter School has a similar plan. Last week, the Westlake school board approved an increase in kindergarten enrollment from 60 students to 100 starting next year. Plans are also to add a middle school program which this year’s fifth grade students would move into.

By 2020 our two schools would be 900 students strong,” Westlake principal Robert Capp said. “One hundred per grade level K-8.”

By build out, Capp said the plan for Westlake Charter School is to have an executive director, one principal, and two assistant principals. The school will need more space as soon as this fall to house the additional kindergarteners and sixth-grade students and may have to split its campus, he said.

Westlake Charter School officials plan to submit a Proposition 39 request to the Natomas Unified School District by Nov. 1 for the space needed to accommodate the additional students. Currently, Westlake Charter School shares the former Natomas Middle School campus on Del Paso Road with the NP3 middle and high schools. (Prop 39 requires facilities for public charter schools.) 

“I’m very excited about the prospect of Westlake Charter School expanding through eighth grade,” said Susan Ross, the parent of a Westlake student. “This school has so many positive attributes – small class sizes, Spanish, art, P.E., tailored learning, and amazing teachers – carrying these things, especially the foreign language, through to middle school will only improve my children’s overall education.”

Natomas Charter School also operates the Performing and Fine Arts Academy, Leading Edge Middle School and Pursuing Academic Choices Together and Individualized Learning Program for home-schooled students. The Natomas Charter School’s charter is written so that officials there do not need Natomas Unified School District approval to add first grade to its Transitions Program. On the other hand, the new Westlake charter for grades 6, 7 and 8 will need approval from the Natomas Unified school board.

Said Capp, “So many parents are so pleased with what getting here and would like to see it continue.”


  1. I think there needs to be something very significant being offered by Westlake in order to be approved to expand. And by significant I mean more than just “amazing teachers, Spanish, art and PE”. The middle schools in our district already offer those things. Charters are supposed to offer a benefit that is not being met at the public schools.

  2. I also hope that our district doesn’t sit by while a charter school takes funds that will make the district lay off more teachers.

    Let’s hope our charter schools actually understand the financial situation, and play nice.

  3. Jason, last time I checked, schools were about the kids and learning, not the teachers’ employment status. Food for thought…if the district did a better job at meeting the needs of its students, parents would not CHOOSE to enroll their children in Charters.

  4. Parents should not “play nice” while kids’ futures are at stake. The charter schools are looking to expand because they have ridiculously long waiting lists and a quality service to provide. 200 kids wanted Kindergarten at Westlake and didn’t get it.

    The district’s problems are their problems- choosing to do a poor job at education just to not lay teachers off is not the fault of the charters.

  5. So forget the needs of the kids (and desires of the parents) just focus on the laying off of teachers. Never mind the fact that those teachers are welcome to apply for those ADDITIONAL jobs at the expanding schools. Westlake Charter’s API scores last year were 912 which is much higher than ANY other school in Natomas. Looks like they are doing more right than just Art, PE, Spanish and small class sizes. Way to go Westlake Charter!!!

  6. The charter schools are actually helping keep kids in our district. There are many parents out there who would be sending their kids to private schools or other high schools such as Mira Loma. NUSD still gets a portion of the ADA from the charter schools. If these kids went elsewhere they would get nothing. NUSD good use some good publicity. We have amazing teachers at our schools, but all we hear is how bad the district is. How about highlighting some of the things they are doing right?

  7. Spanish and Art are taught at Natomas Middle School? By credentialed teachers with a speciality in their field? I can’t find it anywhere on NMS or Heron’s website… maybe you can point us in the direction.

    Why are charters continuously blamed for the district’s financial problems? If the district offered a broad, high quality education at all of its sites, the charters would fill with out-of-district kids. Parents go looking for services they can’t get at their home school. It’s not the fault of charters.

  8. The big difference in Charter and traditional public school is parents are held responsible and play a huge part in the success of their students. Lots of money is saved by parent involvement and that money is used for other student services. The students at Charter is not just known as a number like traditional. I saw a huge difference in my son when he transferred over to Westlake from previously attending another school within the district. Why are we fighting over the future of our next generation.

  9. Maybe what we really need is a charter school that focuses on the kids who don’t have active parental support or the kids who’s needs are not being met in the traditional classroom due to learning disabilities, etc. Think about the impact that would have on the lives of those students!

  10. Seriously? Laid off teachers? Westlake Charter has appriximately 20 kids per class. Expanding would create more teaching jobs than would be lost.

    Not to mention all the Natomas residents turning to private school and other options for middle school grades.

    The District is reaching here, with their opposition.

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