ESCONDIDO – Community members and alumni of San Pasqual Academy in Escondido are fighting to keep the school open after the state recently notified San Diego County that the academy must shut its doors by Oct. 1.
The school, which has been a residential home for dependents of the Juvenile Court system for 20 years, is the first of its kind in the nation.
Back in 2015, state law mandated the end of licensed group homes and required that such children be placed with families.
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. Early last month, the California Department of Social Services told the county in a letter that it would be ending the three-year pilot program.
“Given the overall reduction in the county’s foster care population and the very limited number of appropriate referrals, it appears that continuation of the pilot is no longer viable or prudent,” the letter said.
Since the announcement, members of the community have been urging state and county officials to keep the academy open in order to keep servicing foster children.
In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Friends of San Pasqual Academy claimed that the decision to shut down the school is a misnomer as the school “is not a group home and should not be categorized as such.”
“It has been granted an exception to that designation over the last 20 years to specifically address the anomaly for the standard classification as it does not fit the model or definition of group homes,” the letter said.
The letter goes on to express concern for the foster youth and where they will be placed once the school is shut down.
“Foster teens have a chance but only if they have the right program and environment to help build their confidence and trust allowing them to focus on their growth instead of their next meal and a safe space. San Pasqual Academy offers that,” the letter said.
In a letter to the academy’s students, alumni and supporters, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he supports requesting a 9-month extension to the ordered Oct. 21 closure.
“We can all work together to find solutions that meet the requirements of state and federal law and ensure we are protecting and nurturing the youth who are in our foster care system,” Fletcher said. “Please know that we will ensure that every youth has an individualized plan that ensures they are fully supported.”
Joan Scott, one of the Friends of San Pasqual Academy, said in an email that the County Health and Human Services Department has recently instructed all social workers to not place any more kids at San Pasqual Academy.
She said that kids will instead have to remain at a temporary, short-term facility that she claims has become overcrowded. The facility is called the Polinsky Center.