Scripps Ranch has been home to Innovations Academy since 2011. With the San Diego Unified School District boardâ€™s recent approval of the Scripps Mesa Joint Occupancy Project, it will be forced to relocate once again. (photo by Cynthia Kurose)
Innovations Academy begins 2018-19 year
Innovations Academy (IA), a kindergarten through eighth grade public charter school in Scripps Ranch, has been relocated three times since its inception in 2008. At the conclusion of the upcoming 2018-19 school year, it will be forced to move once again, but with the expectation that the next site will be its permanent home.
On June 19, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board of Education voted 4-1 to move forward with the Scripps Mesa Joint Occupancy Project – a deal which will involve demolition of the current school site and construction of a mixed use facility with 264 apartment units in its place. While many residents and all local community groups opposed the project, the school board voted in favor, citing overall benefits to the school district, including an ongoing revenue stream that would be generated from the full 66-year lease agreement.
As part of the project’s description, according to the environmental impact report (EIR), “The intention of the District is to relocate Innovations Academy to its own, permanent location, and the District, in July 2016, approved spending up to $20 million on such a facility. In the event a permanent location cannot be secured … Innovations Academy would be relocated to an existing traditional K-6 or 7-8 school campus, within the school district boundaries.”
School administrators and parents at IA have mixed feelings about the relocation of the school.
“There is nervousness about the uncertainty among parents, administration and even students,” said Jennifer Ott-Rol, parent of twin fourth graders at the school.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and we won’t until there is a definite location for us. My kids are nervous about it; it’s an upheaval in their lives,” she said.
Christine Kuglen is the director and author of the charter for IA, and she recalled what it was like moving year after year when the school was first founded.
“I was desperate to be anywhere for more than a year,” she said. “We had been at three different locations for one year each and I was moving the school every summer.”
In anticipation of the fourth move, she sought out unused SDUSD property on her own, hoping to find a permanent or semi-permanent home for the school. When she found the former Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary School site at 10380 Spring Canyon Road, she approached the school district with a petition to use the campus. While it initially met with resistance, she ultimately received approval for a short-term lease that began in the summer of 2011.
With regular lease renewals always looming at the current site, the prospect of a permanent location for IA is appealing to Kuglen.
“I never expected to be there (at the current site) forever. We do need a permanent, forever home, and we are going to get that now,” she said.
Parents who were first attracted to IA because of its project-based learning style, among other offerings, say they would consider following the school to its next site if the new location puts it in a reasonable commuting distance.
“I am willing to commute as long as my daughter is still thriving and feels she belongs,” said Amanda Belton, whose third grader has been enrolled at IA since kindergarten. “If we were to change schools, it is doubtful that we would choose a traditional neighborhood school, as I truly believe in project-based learning.”
Kim Knox is another parent who was first attracted to the school because its teaching methodologies and positive discipline philosophy aligned well with her parenting style. However, proximity was also a consideration, so a cumbersome commute would likely cause her to consider other charter school options for her fifth-grade son.
At the March 6 SDUSD school board meeting this year, IA’s charter was approved for a five-year renewal, with the next renewal date set for June 30, 2023. More information about Innovations Academy can be found at innovationsacademy.org.