By Amabelle Ocampo
Foster youth students who have fallen through the cracks in the Sacramento City Unified School District always had one last hope at the end of the education continuum: The Fremont School for Adults. Fremont’s fully accredited High School Completion program provides the opportunity to earn credits necessary for high school graduation, and includes two classes specifically for youths who age out of the foster care system.
Barring a financial miracle, the school will close permanently on June 18.
The FSA closure will displace 2,000 students in the fall. More than 15 classes will be dropped including two classes serving ”aged out” foster youth who use the facility for accelerated credits to graduate from high school.
“The students are the same kids who failed in community college due to weak English skills, or have dropped out of high school.” said Victoria Hass, a concerned ESL teacher who works for Sacramento Unified School District. (SCUSD) “Many want to improve their English to get a better job, to finish high school with a GED. Their options are limited.”
SCUSD held the public hearing to announce Tier III school closures to transfer $5,093,862, in unrestricted general funds to instructional K-12 programs according to Patricia A. Hagemeyer, the School District’s Chief Business Officer.
Fremont is not the first school in the state to close. They are among the 200 statewide facing financial trouble, the largest in state history, according to the California Department of Education. Oakland Unified School District is currently closing five elementary schools. Long Beach Unified School District made more than $20 million in cuts in an effort to balance their 2013-2014 budget, eliminating Head Start preschool programs and 300 employee layoffs.
Fremont provides ESL and Citizenship education, high school GED equivalency tests, and credit recovery for high school drop outs.
It has helped young adults such as Jordan Buell, an 18-year-old former foster youth in an independent living program (ILP), earn credit through FSA’s concurrent enrollment. Buell graduated on Monday, June 11, from American Legion Continuing High School with his class.
“ I was able to pick up credits from Fremont at night so that was how I was able to graduate. It’s a shame that the school will not be available for others,” said Buell.
A high school diploma is required to be eligible for the first year of the California Community College Transfer Entitlement Cal Grant. The Cal Grant increase the GPA requirement from 2.0 to 2.7 under Governor Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 budget proposal, which creates a climb for students who fell behind in high school.
The dropout rate in Sacramento County is 19.7 percent over a four-year period, slightly above the state average of 18.2 percent. The rate is far worse for students of color. In Sacramento County, more than one of every four black or Latino students dropped out of school during the last four years.
Gustavo Arroyo, a board member was especially strained by the decision to close the school. He later discussed with Fremont students a way to possibly keep basic ESL open in another facility, but the foster youth program will cease.
“We are scrambling with emergency fundraising to raise $1.5 million,” said Susan Lytle Gilmore, Director of Adult Education at Sacramento City Unified School District. A car wash and rummage sale was the student’s last effort to keep their classes going.
Perhaps, the only way the school can remain open is if the voters pass the Governor’s November tax initiative designed to fund education.