Valley students win fight to keep Coachella charter school open

CVUSD will charter Olive Crest Academy for two more years

POSTED: 11:55 PM PDT Apr 09, 2013    UPDATED: 12:27 AM PDT Apr 10, 2013 
COACHELLA, Calif. -

Hundreds of students, parents, and teachers were dressed in blue and gold on Tuesday. The Eagles flocked to the Coachella Valley Unified School board meeting, rallying to save Olive Crest Academy. In a late-night decision, the school board voted 5-2 to extend the high school's charter for at least two more years.

"Our school is a very good school. I don't believe that it should be closed because we're doing a lot of great things. Kids are going to college, picking their grades, and doing better than they could anywhere else," said Celeste Urias, an 11th grader.

The academy in Coachella is home to more than 230 at-risk high school students and after only three years the school district threatened to close its doors.

The school board claimed the "charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the charter school" and fails to expose all of its students to college opportunities. However, CEO Donald Verleur II assures college is a top priority on the campus.

"It's scary because we gotten such great reviews until today. We were on the right path. We were surprised. They just don't think we can do it, but we've been doing it," he said.     

Celeste, still a student at Olive Crest Academy, is also already a familiar face at College of the Desert.

"I'm on my second semester of taking college courses," she said.

The charter school is 50 percent funded by the state the rest comes from donations. English teacher Maggie Hensel believes politics and dollar signs are what led the school board to consider closing the school and potentially put a halt to student opportunity.

"Essentially they'll be falling through the cracks. It is heartbreaking to think we are again putting the budget on the backs of our children," said Hensel.

This spring, Olive Crest Academy will celebrate its first graduating class. Students and staff such as Hensel say they'll continue to fight to ensure it won't be the last.

"We are doing good things and we deserve to stay," said Celeste.