Students enrolled in the K-8 Casmalia campus will learn from seats in an Olga Reed Elementary classroom this fall when two Orcutt Union School District schools consolidate under one roof in Los Alamos.
Combining the northern Santa Barbara County district campuses — located about 30 minutes, or 26 miles, apart — will provide larger facilities for the 81 students currently occupying three classrooms at the Oak-8 campus in Casmalia, one of two schools in the district’s Orcutt Academy Charter program.
After analyzing logistics and considering costs, the Orcutt board of trustees voted 4-0 Wednesday night to merge the rural campuses, with board chairman Jim Peterson absent.
Some Oak-8 teachers, parents and staff applauded the decision, which takes effect in the 2014-15 school year.
Now officials will scramble to create a bus schedule and smooth transition.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we're happy to do it,” said Joe Dana, district director of charter programs and lead administrator at both campuses. “We think this will be a good move for students and staff from both OAK-8 and Olga Reed.”
Dana sent a letter to parents late Wednesday, outlining changes and background for those who hadn’t yet heard about the move that’s already a year in the making.
Teachers at the Oak-8 campus in Casmalia outside Santa Maria spearheaded the idea as a way to offer more hands-on activities space, not to mention a gym, cafeteria, library, expansive playground, track and more.
The 196 students at Olga Reed won’t see a huge difference — the schools will function separately with different schedules and classroom programs — except that Oak-8 students will soon occupy five spare classrooms on the Helena Street side of campus.
The schools will, however, share lunchtimes, recesses, arts programming, physical education programming, emergency responsibilities and more, Dana said.
Officials hope to organize an event connecting students from both schools in the coming weeks, along with an evening for Oak-8 parents to check out the Los Alamos school.
“As site administrator for (Orcutt Academy) and Olga Reed, I sincerely believe that this idea will benefit students from both schools,” Dana said. “Students will have more potential acquaintances and friends, teachers will have more fellow teachers to talk to and collaborate with and the two schools can come together for special events.”
The Orcutt district absorbed Olga Reed from an ailing Los Alamos School District in 2011, and similarly took over Casmalia School, starting the charter program in 2008.
Dana said the district doesn’t know what will become of the Casmalia buildings, although Superintendent Bob Bush told Noozhawk they could possibly house the charter’s growing Independent Study Program, currently located within Alice Shaw Elementary.