Westwood Charter continues to generate much needed revenue for local schools
As the program sponsor, the Westwood School District receives 6 percent of total charter school revenues and this method of alternative education is currently doing well.
There are 450 students enrolled in the Westwood Charter independent study program that provides services to Lassen and the contiguous counties including Sierra, Modoc, Shasta and Plumas.
“More and more individuals are looking at charter schools as an alternative to traditional education because it meets their family needs, educational goals for their kids and it gives them options,” said Bietz.
Westwood Charter has students at all grade levels from elementary through high school, however, it is especially appealing to the high school age student. According to Bietz, the flexibility of independent study makes it possible for older students to hold a job or enroll in a community college course while completing work for a high school diploma.
Recently, the advisory commission for charter schools granted the Westwood Charter Independent Study Program 100 percent funding per student, increasing it from 80 percent. These additional revenues will not only benefit the charter school but the Westwood School District as well, said Bietz.
A pilot program that provides educational services to people 18 to 26 years old who do not have a high school diploma is also being tested this school year in Sacramento. These services are offered to students at four centers created by the Federal Workforce Investment Act, as well as regional rehabilitation centers run by the Salvation Army. Those participating are prepared to pass the GED test.
“We are working through the Federal Workforce and Investment Act offices trying to get these people their high school diplomas because without it they are mostly nonemployable. They are always going to be in low- income jobs and not have the opportunity to move forward educationally,” said Bietz.
This pilot program has 50 students at Federal Workforce Centers and 10 students at centers run by the Salvation Army with two full-time teachers. So far, the students who are participating in the program are doing well. According to Bietz, if Federal Workforce Centers continue to be receptive to contracting with Westwood Charter School for educational services the program could expand statewide.
Prior to the 2006-07 school year, Westwood Charter operated school sites throughout California for five years. However, a change in state law prevented the charter from operating charter schools outside Lassen County. As a result, it changed to an independent study program operating in Lassen and all adjoining counties as allowed by law.
The law prohibiting school districts from operating charter school sites outside their area does not apply to clients of the Federal Workforce Investment Act. Bietz said Westwood Charter is working with a consultant in Sacramento who contacts the directors of Federal Workforce Investment sites to get their support in partnering for educational services.
During the height of its operation, the Westwood Charter School boosted revenues for the Westwood School District by $300,000 to $400,000 a year. In addition, over the past five years the program has generated about $2.5 million for special educational services in Lassen County.
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