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VALLEY FOCUS | Pacoima

Location Announced for Charter School

September 23, 1998|HOLLY EDWARDS

Jacqueline Elliot's dream of establishing a charter middle school in Pacoima took a step closer to reality Tuesday when she announced a site had been found at the Japanese American Community Center at 12953 Branford St.

Elliot, a curriculum advisor at Montague Charter Academy, a charter elementary school in Pacoima, has spearheaded the drive to establish a charter middle school that would serve troubled youth of the Pacoima community.

Overcrowded classrooms and other public school problems can breed a sense of alienation among students, Elliot said, which she believes can lead them to join gangs, abuse drugs or get pregnant.

"But if I can get them excited about the prospects for their future and all of things the world has to offer, then joining a gang or having a baby at 15 won't be as appealing, or won't be appealing at all," Elliot said. "When children leave middle school, they should feel connected to the real world and have a vision of what they want out of life."

She obtained a $35,000 grant from the California Department of Education for planning, and she says she's applying for an additional $100,000 in state funding to get the school started.

Scheduled to open next August, the school will serve 176 students in sixth and seventh grades during its first year, and will serve an additional 88 students during its second year. The student population will be capped at 300 in grades six through eight, she said, and there will not be more than 22 students in a classroom.

"When children are hoarded into large schools, they lose their identity and they don't have a sense of how they fit into society," Elliot said. "The whole idea behind the charter school is to give them a sense of connectedness to their communities and to each other."

Charter schools are state and federally funded but are exempt from many regulations governing public schools.

Elliot said she has been traveling the country seeking advice from "exemplary people in the charter school movement" and has come up with several ideas for the new campus, including an extended school day, after-school programs in the arts, music and dance, and business partnerships that will let students examine future career possibilities firsthand.

Elliot is seeking community help and involvement in getting the school started. For more information, call her at (818) 677-7847.

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