Alpine students now have an option to attend high school in Alpine with an agreement between the Alpine Union School District and Liberty Charter High School approved by the District’s Board of Trustees on Feb. 17. The high school will open in Alpine in late August of this year.
According to the agreement, LCHS is a nonprofit high school and will operate separately from the District as it falls under the San Diego County Board of Education, but it will lease the former Alpine Elementary School site at 1950 Alpine Blvd. The High School may elect to share the use of the gymnasium and outdoor field spaces at the Joan MacQueen Middle School. In addition, the high school may use the District’s softball field located at 1323 Administration Way. The District and the charter school would develop a shared-use schedule to ensure that such use does not conflict with any District-sponsored or District-supported programs, events, activities, or other uses.
The school will pay $42,000 per month, for the initial term of the agreement that expires on June 30, 2027, with an annual increase of 2.5% beginning on July 1, 2023. In addition, the charter school will pay a $2,500 per month solar generation fee.
The charter school, currently in Lemon Grove, has had difficulty in finding a new location since the Lemon Grove School District informed it that it could no longer operate on the Lemon Grove campus last fall, with its lease being terminated in fall 2022.
Literacy First Charter School Executive Director and Founder Debbie Beyer said that it looked at placing the school in the Valle De Oro community, and even though the San Diego Board of Supervisors approved it, due to litigations from community residents, it has not been able to proceed with getting funding to move forward with that project. She said that she has not given up on the Rancho San Diego location for a high school, but that she is extremely happy with the new agreement with the AUSD.
Beyer said Literacy First Charter is a K-12 school, with four physical locations, and includes an independent study program Freedom Academy, and it is the high school that is moving to Alpine.
“It is a 9-12. The model is small on all of our campuses, so none of our campuses have more than 600 students,” she said. “It is intentional because we do not feel that kids were made to be warehoused places. They need to be known. If they start with us in kindergarten and go to us through high school, they are known. But those who start with us in high school, those kids are also known because they are with us for four years and it is a small community.”
Beyer said its high school is the only small comprehensive public high school in East County.
“All the things you think about high school,” she said. “Sports, events, social activities, clubs, academic rigor, all those things that you think of high school has, Liberty Charter High School has those. It is a high school experience, and our kids have access to AP courses with a full range of AP classes. They have access to a full range of sports. Our sports teams have made it into the CIF playoffs multiple times, won championships.”
Beyer said the school has a robotics program, several clubs, so the school has all the things that a parent would want for their children in a high school. She said all its teachers are qualified in their areas of teaching, with most of them being with the school for a long time and that the school is Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accredited.
“Our kiddos, when they graduate from high school, they have post-high school plan. We know where all our kids are going when they graduate. We help them get scholarships,” she said. “The myth that if you are a small school, you do not get to go to big schools or good schools is not true. Our kids go to colleges, four-year universities all over this country.”
Beyer said the current senior class has garnered nearly $2 million in scholarships, and it is only February.
Beyer said it has more people wanting to go to the school than it has seats for with a waiting list of around 800 students.
“It is extremely frustrating because you wish you could take them all,” she said. “Facilities continue to be a big ordeal for charters all the time because we are not just given school buildings, like other schools are. At the high school level, we also have a lottery. There are a series of preferences that we are allowed to give. Our current students are the first priority. Then there are a series of priorities. Students that live within the zip code, students with attending siblings, and because we are in the zip code of Alpine, those students will have a preference when we do the lottery.”
Beyer said it has told its parents that they can be assured that the Class of ‘22 will graduate from Lemon Grove, but the other students on campus, juniors, freshmen, and sophomores will graduate from the Alpine campus for certain. “We have high hopes for a future in Alpine,” she said. “We do have the property in El Cajon that we are working on right now. We are not done in El Cajon at this point but knowing right now that we have a great future in Alpine, we are excited about that. Alpine has been wanting a high school in Alpine for decades. We are excited to bring a high school to Alpine.”
Beyer said she is excited that Alpine wants the high school.
“That is not always the experience when you are a charter school,” she said. “You are some kind of intrusion into their system, so it is exciting to be in a place where we feel like we are wanted.”
AUSD Superintendent Dr. Rich Newman did not respond to requests for an interview.