The California Dept. of Social Services has informed the County of San Diego’s child welfare department that it must close the San Pasqual Academy, which is a residential home for dependents of the Juvenile Court system. The school for foster children must close by October, according to the letter.
The school is located in the San Pasqual Valley on Hwy 78 between Escondido and Ramona.
The school is operated for the County by the nonprofit New Alternatives.
The education of the children is under the San Diego County Office of Education. According to UC Davis, San Pasqual Academy has a 97% graduation rate.
Federal funding for such schools has run out. A 2015 state law mandated the end of licensed group homes and requires that such children be placed with families. Over the past 20 years the number of children in foster-care homes has declined from 6,600 at the beginning of the century to 2,150 early this year.
The San Pasqual Academy was granted an exception and allowed to operate for three years on a pilot program whose funding has now dried up.
The Union Tribune reported last week that the staff and students of the school were caught unawares by the news. They have been joined by former students who are organizing to try to save the boarding school.
A student of the academy identified as Kimberly E. has started a petition on change.org that reported has several thousand signatures. She writes: “Yes, it will be easy for the county to put us students into foster homes and family but would that actually be the safest option? In my opinion, it will not be the safest option due to the fact that a lot of foster homes don’t always feed the kids well, sometimes don’t even buy us clothes, also a lot of foster homes do abuse kids behind doors. Also putting kids with their family might seem like a good idea but family can also abuse kids.”
She added, “I believe that San Pasqual Academy is the safest option for the students here because they provide us with enough food, clothes, and also they provide us many benefits such as helping us find housing before we are 18 and help us apply for colleges. They teach us basic cooking skills, independent living, and teach us about self-care. Also at San Pasqual Academy there are adults who live here, such as house parents, grandparents, and families. Also past students who have come back to the academy to have a place to live. They are not just closing down a place, they are closing down a community.”
For many years the location, which is in the unincorporated part of Escondido was a private Seventh Day Adventist High School.