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Horizon opens new charter program in Roseville

Serves independent study and homeschooled students
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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In a seventh-grade science class, student Joel Reedy demonstrates how magicians use light refraction for optical illusions by dipping a test tube filled with oil into a beaker of oil.

“It almost looks like it’s invisible,” Joel said.

Joel is a student at the Roseville Independent Study Enrichment (RISE) Program, which opened in mid-August to serve independent study and homeschooled students. About 190 students go to the school, located in a business park near The Fountains.

Students in kindergarten through sixth grade attend class Tuesdays and Thursdays, and seventh through 12th graders go Mondays and Wednesdays. There are 15 teachers on staff. The RISE Program is the latest in Horizon Charter Schools’ menu of unique learning opportunities.

Horizon Charter Schools was the 15th charter school to form in California back in 1993 when the charter movement hadn’t yet hit the United States, said interim CEO Cliff Bautista.

“We’re a step ahead of the curve,” said enrollment management coordinator Dennis Craft. “Parents can have some confidence in that.”

Since then, charter schools have grown in popularity as some parents seek alternatives to traditional public education or can no longer afford to send their children to private schools.

But charter programs tend to come and go. This year, roughly 100 new charter schools started in California, said Horizon’s Chief Academic Officer Patricia Winget. Currently, 18 charter programs operate in Placer County, including John Adams Academy, which opened in September.

Charter schools receive public money and may collect private donations, but aren’t subject to all the same rules and regulations as other public schools. This freedom is what motivates the founders of many charter programs.

Horizon Charter Schools has a $20 million annual budget, and enrollment continues to increase with about 3,000 students in six counties — Placer, Sacramento, El Dorado, Nevada, Yuba and Sutter.

The Academy of Math, Science and Engineering outgrew its former 10,000-square-foot building in Roseville and moved to a 25,000-square-foot space in Rocklin, which opened in August.

Horizon Charter Schools also runs the Lincoln Montessori Community Cooperative, an accelerated learning program, web-based learning, homeschooling, special education resources and other learning communities.

Horizon tends to appeal to at-risk students and gifted learners, while traditional public schools cater to the “middle” student, Winget said. For instance, Horizon has a fourth grader in Placerville who takes classes at a community college and a graduate who is 15 years old and attends the University of California at Davis.

These are anomalies that don’t fit in traditional educational environments, Winget said.

Some charter school students suffer medical issues that prevent them from going to a campus five days a week, while others may be athletes who travel. Some parents go this route as a way to remove their child from another school where bullying occurred.

Each Horizon student gets her own personalized learning plan based on California Academic Content Standards and the student’s abilities, interests and aptitudes.
“We know every kid by name,” Winget said. “We have a supervising teacher for every student. There’s this safety net that the kid can’t drop through.”

The teacher checks with the student on a regular basis. The parent signs a contract that he or she is equally accountable in the child’s academic progress.

RISE Principal Julie Haycock said her school is geared toward independent study and homeschooled students who need more instruction on core subjects such as math, science and English. The school also offers enrichment courses, including art, home economics and sign language.

“We have the freedom to offer some of those things students wouldn’t be able to have in traditional schools because of budget cuts,” Haycock said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.