Parents and Teachers Are Drafting Petition to Convert Point Dume Elementary into a Charter School
• Campus Would Still Be Public within the SMM District
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
A group of Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School parents and teachers have announced that they are in the process of drafting a petition to transform the school into an independent charter school.
The announcement came just days after the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District announced that PDMSS has been named a California Distinguished School for 2010.
“We feel we are in a position to save the school,” PDMSS parent and PTA president Robyn Ross told the Malibu Surfside News. Ross and PDMSS PTA executive vice president Ali Thonson are spearheading the charter conversion movement with the support of the parent and teacher community at the school.
School district officials have denied the rumor that has been circulating for over a year that the K-5 school that serves the Point Dume community may be closed due to the current budget crisis and declining enrollment, but these fears persist.
Longtime Point Dume residents have not forgotten that the district decided to close the school in 1980—despite overwhelming opposition from the community—during a similar economic and attendance decline.
For 16 years, Point Dume families transported their children to Juan Cabrillo and Webster elementary schools, while the neighborhood school, walking distance for most Point Dume residents, stood empty. The campus was later used as a community center and office space. The school reopened in 1996. The volunteer group seeking the charter conversion say they do not want to see history repeated.
“I’ve been a parent at this wonderful school for seven years,” Ross said. “This isn’t a new idea, it’s been discussed over the years. The time is now right.”
The volunteer group is seeking “a charter conversion in an effort to ensure the school stays open amid an increasing state budget crisis and at a time when a Malibu elementary school closure looks imminent,” a press release issued by the petitioners stated.
Ross explained that PDMSS would remain a public school, and continue to serve the community, but that the charter conversion would allow the school to maintain lower class size, classroom support and the school’s marine and environmental science program, but would also allow for a stronger emphasis on technology and the arts.
“We had a meeting on April 23 for the PDMSS parent community,” Ross said. “There is a tremendous outpouring of support. This is a real community effort. Our teachers voted unanimously to support the petition.”
Once the petition is submitted, the district will have 30 days to schedule a public meeting and must approve or deny the petition within 60 days.
According to the press release, the PDMSS charter developers are working with the California Charter Schools Association and the law offices of Middleton, Young & Minney, which specializes in charter law.
“We’re hoping to work amicably with the district,” Ross said. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”