Heritage Classic Charter Schools, which operates Temecula Preparatory School in French Valley, announced it is appealing the Menifee Union School District’s denial of its petition to open a second campus in Menifee.
The school would be called Menifee Valley Preparatory School and would be modeled after Temecula Preparatory School, which has been chartered by the Temecula Valley Unified School District since 2000.
“I had spent a year working with them to iron out any concerns, so I was really surprised,” said Scott Phillips, headmaster of Heritage Classic, about the Aug. 13 vote by the Menifee Union school board to deny the petition 5-0.
“There is clearly a strong demand for the proposed school,” Phillips said. “TPS has close to 2,000 students on the waiting list and we know that many of them come from the Menifee area. The reasons that planting this school is so important is best said by Plato: ‘The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.’”
Heritage Classic’s petition to appeal Menifee Union’s decision was filed Wednesday with the Riverside County Office of Education, which is expected to set a hearing date within the next 90 days.
“We can offer something unique that Menifee is not offering,” Phillips said.
Heritage Classic seeks to open a K-8 in Menifee, for which he said they are eying property near Interstate 215 and Scott Road as their first preference for a campus. Within a few years, the goal would be to expand to a K-12, which is what Temecula Preparatory is.
With a current enrollment of 1,045 at Temecula Preparatory, Phillips said 50 of those students live in Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Menifee or Lake Elsinore. There are 100 parents who have attended interest meetings for the proposed Menifee campus, and 300 on an email interest list, he said.
Because of the size of its waiting list, the school does a lottery each year for new students.
“Out of 75 new students this year, there were only four new families that got in,” Phillips said, noting that is because siblings of current students are given first dibs at open slots.
Despite the school’s apparent popularity among area parents and success in operating on a long-time charter through the Temecula Valley Unified School District, Menifee Union cited several reasons for its denial.
In a Menifee Union staff report prepared for the school board, district administrators wrote that Heritage Classic failed to adequately describe issues such as: how it would meet the needs of English language learners; ensure that its student body was racially and ethnically balanced; meet the needs of students under-achieving students and those with disabilities; and administer its independent study program.
In its vote, the school board unanimously denied the petition because it did not believe Heritage Classic provided comprehensive descriptions for those and other aspects of its education plan for Menifee Valley Preparatory. Therefore it would not be able to successfully implement its program, the board voted.
Reached Friday, a representative for Menifee Union said by filing an appeal to the county, Heritage Classic is following a course of action it is entitled to.
“We are just in a wait-and-see mode right now,” said Menifee Union Spokeswoman Betti Cadmus.
Because charter schools are public and receive per pupil state education funding that would otherwise go to their local school district, they are required to receive approval from their respective districts.
Phillips said should the county accept its petition, the school would be chartered though the Riverside County Office of Education but Menifee Union would be required under Proposition 39 to provide a facility.
For example, Temecula Preparatory occupies a campus provided by Temecula Valley Unified, though it constructed its own gymnasium/multi-purpose room.
Phillips said Temecula Preparatory’s most recent cumulative API score of 879 for grades K-12 serves as an example of the charter’s successful and substantial education program.
If denied by the county, Heritage Classic plans to take its petition to the state.
Denee Burns, director of development for Heritage Classic, pointed out that in 2012, Temecula Preparatory earned the title of a California Distinguished School.
“The scores reflect the district is solid,” Burns said. “We didn’t just open up shop last year.”
Burns added: “It is not just us wanting to go in there, it is the Menifee parents saying ‘We want a school here,’” Burns said.