17 Jul 19
As Knights Landing’s Sci-Tech Academy nears its 10-year anniversary, the charter school’s educational strategies and future challenges were examined and addressed by the Yolo County grand jury in its 2018-19 report.
Part of the Woodland Joint Unified School District, Sci-Tech opened at the former Grafton Elementary site in fall 2010. Considered “the heart of town,” the previous school “struggled during the early 2000s to maintain adequate enrollment and remain viable” and was shut down by the district in June 2009.
As its name indicates, Sci-Tech employs a science and technology-based curriculum to “drive teaching and learning in all other core areas.”
According to the report, it uses technology in three ways — to connect teachers, students and parents to the ongoing educational task, to reach out to the broader community, and as a major tool for innovative teaching and learning. Being a charter school gives more flexibility in curriculum creation and the ability to draw students from a larger geographic area than traditional public schools have.
For its investigation, grand jurors reviewed relevant documents, researched topics related to charter schools, visited the campus and interviewed administrators, teachers, members of the governance committee and parents and students.
The grand jury ultimately found that the academy creates a “strong union between teachers, students, and parents with a creative use of science coupled with a small-town family atmosphere” and that it has a strong governance committee and involved parent organization.
Also noted was the school’s use of “effective communication systems” to connect with families and that bonds built between older and younger students “promotes social confidence.” Additionally, Sci-Tech engages the local community in a way that Knights Landing “once again has a town center.”
Possible issues were summarized as follows:
“Like Grafton School before it, Sci-Tech faces substantial issues in the small, isolated community. There are concerns related to the desire to maximize enrollment to meet budgetary needs, the insufficient number of classrooms for increased enrollment, its location in a floodplain, which makes additional construction cost-prohibitive,” the report states. “However, its innovative approach to education and attention to relationships makes it a unique model worthy of replication.”
In its required response to the grand jury’s findings, the WJUSD Board of Trustees commented on the item concerning “space limitations, long-term financial stability, and recruiting a sufficient number of students to justify continued operation of Sci-Tech,” saying:
“Because Sci-Tech Academy is located next to the Sacramento River, the school finds itself unable to expand its facilities due to the restrictive nature of building in a flood zone. As such, Sci-Tech has been unable to construct additional classroom space or other school building structures due to the excessive cost.
“Although the ability to expand the school population is currently nonexistent, Sci-Tech Academy has traditionally experienced strong interest and maintains waiting lists for entrance. However, Sci-Tech, like most schools throughout the State of California would benefit from full and fair funding compared to other states throughout the United States.”
Superintendent Thomas Pritchard said that overall, “the board felt it was a positive report and is proud of the work Principal Martinez is doing as the leader of the school.”
In 2009, Grafton had an enrollment of 115 students. When Sci-Tech launched the following year, it had 100 students and has grown to 249 for fall 2019-20.