Plumas Charter School is different — in some ways

Plumas Charter School is now in its 20th year serving students in Plumas and neighboring counties. Despite the fact that approximately one-third of Plumas County’s students attend PCS, our community is still plagued by myths and confusion around what our school offers and how it differs from Plumas Unified School District schools. Let me answer some of the most common questions I receive.

What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools designed to offer additional educational choices in the communities they serve by providing a unique curriculum, structure, and environment.

Charter schools cannot discriminate, and they are designed to put students first. To learn more about California charter schools, visit ccsa.org.

All charter schools are held accountable by the state of California, the school’s authorizing agency, and the school’s students and parents.

Plumas Unified School District authorizes PCS, which means that PUSD has specific oversight duties including reviewing our budget and financials, reviewing our teachers’ credentials, and holding us accountable to our Local Control Accountability Plan and our charter document.

We are also a nonprofit, operating under the California nonprofit corporation Plumas Alternative Learning Services. PCS has its own board of directors, which provides additional oversight.

Are you a public school?

Yes. Like PUSD schools, PCS receives public funding. We are a no-cost public school. PCS is not exclusive, nor do we charge any kind of tuition fees.

Funding for students is generated in Plumas County the same for either school system, based on the average daily attendance that the school generates. Monies come primarily from the property taxes generated within our county.

What is the PCS mission?

PCS offers significant programmatic flexibility and options that allow us to accommodate students. We pride ourselves on inclusive programs in which students are nurtured.

Our mission statement is “To provide a personalized learning environment with a culture of acceptance for a diverse community. We encourage the development of compassionate, resilient, lifelong learners.”

We work toward this mission with the core values of “responsiveness, accountability, compassion, and respect—for ourselves, each other, and our environment.”

What are learning centers?

One aspect of PCS’s personalized learning approach is center-based courses at our learning centers in Quincy, Indian Valley, and Chester. Although many of our students complete some or all of their core coursework independently at home, learning centers provide a centralized location for onsite classes and elective activities.

All of our programs adhere to the same set of base standards with core instruction, but our learning centers allow for enrichment programs and activities that are designed to be responsive to the needs of the individual communities.

Each learning center designs its class schedule to best meet the needs of the students enrolled there. Learn more by clicking Learning Centers at plumascharterschool.org.

Is PCS an accredited school?

Yes. Plumas Charter School is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which is the same entity that accredits Plumas Unified School District schools.

Because PCS has a comprehensive A–G approved course list, meaning courses have been approved by the University of California Office of the President, students who graduate PCS are able to go on to attend college or university if they follow an approved sequence of courses.

But more than this, we prepare our graduates to succeed in whatever path they have chosen to pursue. We want them to be honest, good citizens, and kind and thoughtful human beings who actively contribute to society.

Who can attend PCS?

PCS is open to students from transitional kindergarten through 12th grade whose families live in Plumas or a neighboring county. PCS cannot refuse enrollment of a student if there is room at the chosen center in his or her grade level.

When a grade, teacher, or center is at capacity, a waiting list is created for interested students. A public lottery for available openings is held on the first Friday of May, when needed, for the upcoming school year.

How is the classroom environment unique at PCS?

In our elementary classes, we adhere to a 12:1 student-teacher ratio; each class typically has both a credentialed teacher and an instructional aide.

PCS also offers a variety of enrichment activities at our centers, taught by experts in our community. Each of these enrichment instructors is formally trained and experienced in his or her field.

Enrichment activities include music craft and music technology, arts and crafts, performing arts and physical education, and garden and outdoor education programs.

Do you have credentialed teachers?

Yes. As required by law, PCS teachers, both in the classrooms and overseeing independent study, are credentialed by the state of California. Credentials are listed on our website (plumascharterschool.org) under Staff Directory, and those interested can also verify the credentials of an individual educator by visiting ctc.ca.gov/commission/lookup .

In order to provide as many learning experiences as we can in as many ways as we can, we emphasize buy-in and flexibility for our staff. This enables us to maintain a positive environment for teachers, as well as students and parents.

Is this homeschooling?

One of the program options offered at PCS is the homeschool/traditional independent study plan. If a family chooses this plan, which about 20 percent of our families do, they are assigned a credentialed teacher to help design the program, oversee the implementation of the program, and monitor the student’s progress.

Any family that chooses this option is required to complete a core set of courses along with electives and, in many cases, physical education.

How does PCS personalize learning?

Our personalized learning approach allows us to craft an individual plan for each student. The plan may include independent study, center-based courses, concurrent college enrollment, online curricula, or other options.

The personalization occurs in the program options made available to all students at PCS, as well as the individual accommodations made for each student’s learning needs. Examples of these accommodations include the offering of modified courses, additional support throughout the week, flexible seating arrangements, and student groupings based on individual achievement level in a given subject rather than enrolled grade level.

How does PCS claim attendance?

As a public school, we are legally required to take attendance for each student enrolled. Because PCS is an independent study-based program, we are mandated to take attendance using the model of time value of work completed.

Unlike PUSD students, PCS students are not required to physically attend onsite classes, as verified by daily physical attendance. Both “daily work completed” and “daily physical attendance” meet the state of California mandated attendance requirement. Attendance figures are how schools in our state receive funding for each enrolled student.

Can you kick a student out without warning?

No. PCS cannot dismiss or expel students from our programs without cause and without due process. There is a stringently documented policy and procedure that involves constitutionally mandated due process protections with our board of directors if a student is subject to behavioral expulsion or attendance-aligned dismissal.

PCS is a program of choice, and each student who attends signs a master agreement for independent study that outlines the collective responsibility to the program. If a student actively disengages from the program, and fails to respond to all intervention and support from staff, he or she is subject to dismissal. The dismissal process involves a school attendance review board and due process provided by the PCS board of directors.

All of our teachers and staff are passionate about helping students achieve their goals. Using all the tools at our disposal, we are dedicated to going the extra distance in helping our students overcome whatever challenges they are facing.

All of our disciplinary processes are layered with additional supports and interventions, and they are fully documented and transparent.

Does PCS have a special agenda?

Yes and no. While we strive to offer personalized learning programs in which student and parent voice and choice are the forefront, we also provide grade-level instruction in core subjects to state standards.

Providing personalized learning means being responsive to the needs of the student and school, and being able to focus on students’ needs, talents, and dreams. To this end, we take into account social-emotional goals in addition to academic goals for our students, encouraging them to develop grit and an excellent work ethic, respect for themselves and others, and interpersonal and coping skills they can apply throughout their lives.

In addition to preparing our students academically, we also strive to teach them to be critical and creative thinkers and support them in realizing their dreams.

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