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Watsonville
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February 8, 2023

PVUSD hands charter more classrooms

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a plan to give additional space to its newest charter school.

Watsonville Prep School—which already occupies seven portable classrooms at E.A. Hall Middle School—will now take another four rooms at Ann Soldo Elementary School.

The offer of space—which comes at the district’s expense—was required by law.

The item passed 5-1, with Trustee Georgia Acosta dissenting. Trustee Daniel Dodge Jr. was absent.

Watsonville Prep’s introduction into the district has been rocky from the outset.

The Trustees denied the organization’s initial charter petition in 2018, and the Santa Cruz County office of Education denied it on appeal three months later. But in January 2019 the State Board of Education approved the petition.

Under a state law known as Prop 39, PVUSD must provide space for the charter school, the district’s financial state notwithstanding.

Watsonville Prep, which is run by Navigator Schools, started with 180 students in kindergarten through second grade, and plans to add one grade per year until it has an eighth grade. The school’s charter calls for a total of 420 students when fully operational in 2023. 

Once it reaches that level, district officials estimate that the drain of students will mean an annual loss of $4 million.

PVUSD spent about $500,000 preparing the units at E.A. Hall. It is unclear how much the district will have to spend to ready the rooms at Ann Soldo.

Navigator Schools, which also runs Hollister Prep and Gilroy Prep, announced in December 2019 that it had finalized an agreement with the Hansen Family Trust to occupy the second floor of the Gottschalks building at 407 Main St. 

Project developers said the school’s move-in date would be in time for the 2020-21 school year, but CEO Kevin Sved said that prediction was premature. It is unclear when the building will be ready for move-in.

•••

In other action, the trustees approved a proposal for the district to apply for a $246,848 grant for its Migrant Seasonal Head Start program.

The money would come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes $750 million for programs under the Head Start Act to support preventative, preparedness and response activities related to the coronavirus. 

Applications are due May 15, and will be processed in June.

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