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Charter high school aims to cut rent

These buildings on Bitney Springs Road have been Bitney Springs Charter High School's campus for three years, but the $100,000-a-year price tag is too steep now.
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Bitney Springs Charter High School, which opened just three years ago in a cluster of buildings once occupied by Grass Valley Group, may be looking for a new home.

The school operated by the Twin Ridges Elementary School District is looking for cheaper quarters to save money as it works toward shaving a budget deficit and recruiting more students.



“We love our facilities out here, but paying the rent is really putting a strain on our budget,” said Principal George Hoffecker.




The high school, which enrolls 94 students at its Bitney Springs Educational Center and administers a 300-student, K-12 home-school program, pays $100,000 yearly to an East Bay property owner for the right to use the land. While the owner has no plans to raise the rent, Hoffecker said he needs to find ways to save money so more of the school’s $600,000 annual budget can be spent on educational needs.

“We’ve been looking all over for building space,” said Hoffecker, who graduates the first class of seniors in June, when the district’s year-to-year lease expires.

A decision on whether the high school moves won’t be made for a while, Hoffecker said.

If the school doesn’t move, Hoffecker said, he’ll try to sublease 18,000 square feet of available office space to other businesses, who may in turn underwrite some of the curriculum available at the charter school, he said.

“I haven’t gotten any takers for that. If we could get a business partnership, we could stay here. If not, we’ll simply have to seek cheaper quarters. It won’t work without additional funding of some sort.”

Unlike conventional schools, charter schools receive no money from the state for facilities and must spend money out of their own budgets to either rent or purchase school sites. Hoffecker said Twin Ridges has lobbied the state on several occasions to change existing law, but no such legislation is pending.

Before it opened, Twin Ridges officials considered several sites, including a building now occupied by the South Yuba fitness club in Nevada City and an old thrift store on Nevada City Highway in Grass Valley.

Until then, the money comes out of Bitney Springs’ budget, which is currently in the red.

The school faced a $20,000 deficit when the 2001-02 year began that has grown since September, though Hoffecker wouldn’t say by how much.

“It’s important we meet with the parents before we discuss how to deal with the budget,” Hoffecker said.

“It’s difficult to raise money year after year,” he said. “Because we are a charter school, we have the burden of having to raise money to offset the cost of what should be a free education.”


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