Charter starters meet board at Nord

A meeting at Nord school could help save Nord school.

The Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees will meet May 16 at a special, Monday-night meeting to consider an application that would reopen the elementary school as a charter. It starts at 7 p.m. at Nord Elementary School, 5554 California St.

Faced with millions of dollars in budget cuts, the board voted in March to close the 54-student school, a move district staff said would save $164,000 a year. It also decided to close Jay Partridge Elementary School.

Nord Elementary has a 100-year history, and community members are not about to let it go without a fight.

“We are determined to succeed in this endeavor,” said Marcia Worden, a member of the “founders’ group” organized under the Nord-Cana Community Association.

A month ago, supporters submitted a charter application that has since been reviewed by CUSD staff.

The school would be called Nord Country School, and in addition to serving children in the Nord community would attempt to draw families from the greater Chico area interested in a small-school atmosphere.

“It would be a unique environment, a small, respectful, intimate environment,” Worden said.

The group has hired the Sacramento firm of Spector, Middleton, Young and Minney, attorneys who specialize in helping charter schools, Worden said. They’ve also hired an accounting firm.

The 15-member founders’ group, which includes agribusiness interests, is backing the effort financially. “We have banked significant donations,” Worden said, along with securing a line of credit.

But she said support for the charter crosses socioeconomic lines, from large farms to the workers they employ. “The support for this is intense,” she said.

At its May 4 meeting, at which children presented trustees with flowers from the Nord garden, the board decided to set a special meeting so the charter supporters would have time to adjust their proposal before the regularly scheduled May 18 meeting.

Even though each student to attend the school would take with him or her more than $4,600 a year in per-pupil funding from the state, the district has not publicly mentioned this as a concern.

The board would have to approve the application at the Wednesday-night meeting and agree to be the charter’s sponsoring agency in order to meet state deadlines for it to go forward in time for the 2005-06 school year.