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OUSD creates new Ojai Independent School, contracts with private vendor

Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter
At its Jan. 14 meeting, the Ojai Unified School District Board received an update on its newest school – Ojai Independent School – from Superintendent Tiffany Morse.
At its Aug. 14 meeting, the OUSD Board unanimously approved two online learning programs: Edgenuity and Levered. Edgenuity was approved in part to be used for the independent education program that was also approved at that meeting to be implemented during the current school year. 
The administrator and principal of the school is Becky Beckett, who is also Ojai Adult School and Chaparral High School principal. 
The school is offered to students in grades 6 through 12 who are looking for alternative learning options based on their personal learning styles. It allows middle- and high-school students to take all classes online using the Edgenuity software. 
The school has 22 students enrolled as of the meeting Tuesday, three of whom are at the district office site and 19 at the “Summit Center” at Summit School in Upper Ojai Morse said. Fifteen are middle-schoolers and seven are high-schoolers.
Ojai Unified School District voted to temporarily close the 107-year-old Summit School for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years and voted to surplus the property last year.
Morse said: “Seven of those students are new to Ojai Unified School District this year. Seven of them didn’t attend any of our schools in ’18-’19, but were with us before that. So they left the district last year and came back this year to Ojai Independent. Six of them were in Ojai Unified this year, but left, mostly Matilija, to change to Ojai Independent School. A couple of them were Nordhoff, one started at Valley Oak Charter this year and has moved to us. Fifteen of the students are in middle school and seven of them are in high school.”
The former Summit Elementary campus is now being used for most of the independent study students, as well as continuing its one-year license agreement through the 2019-20 school year with the private education vendor Rock, Tree, Sky that contracts with charter schools and now OUSD.
Those who enroll in Ojai Independent School also get to attend Rock Tree Sky on the Summit Elementary campus two days a week, free of charge. RTS received a one-year license for the campus (terminating June 30, 2020) at the board’s June 6 meeting. RTS is paying OUSD $50,000 for the license agreement.
“They’re (RTS) a vendor, so we have a vendor agreement,” Morse said. “It’s about $360 a month (for the district) for kids to go two days a week.”
Morse said most independent study programs in the county either have a full elective complement, partnership with another school or partnership with vendors.
When asked what this means for Summit School, Morse said: “We have done nothing with the 7-11 Committee because we have a school operating at that site at this point. So we have not moved forward with the RFP (request for proposal) bid process. We started this; we did not know how many students we would have. We will bring it to the board at the end of the year to say if this is something we want to continue, is this something we want to expand, should we not do anything and do something with the property?”
Though the board voted to surplus the property last year, it is not actually required to surplus the property, Morse added.
Morse said the school district hopes to expand the independent study program to offer a home-school option in 2021 for K-5 students. It may also move the independent study center located at Chaparral High School to Nordhoff High School.
For more information about the school, contact Beckett at 805-640-4330, Ext. 1910. To schedule a placement meeting, contact 805-640-4330, Ext. 1960.
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