Owned and operated by Oakland-based Aspire Public Schools, Aspire Alexander Twilight College Preparatory Academy, a tuition-free, open-enrollment public charter school, is Aspire’s first secondary school in Sacramento. Aspire Capitol Heights Academy has served kindergarten through eighth grade students in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood since 2003.
Open since fall 2009 at 2360 El Camino Avenue, Aspire Alexander Twilight Academy serves about 480 kindergarten through ninth-grade students; this summer, 10 prefabricated modular classrooms will be added, with the goal of accommodating another 300 pupils.
“The campus can grow to handle 780 students,” explained Steph Wilson, Aspire Public Schools chief of staff. “We plan to put in two groups of five modular classrooms near the existing soccer field on the back side of the campus. That campus is fairly large, and it worked out best for it to be a K-12 school.”
When Loretto High School, a Roman Catholic college-preparatory school for young women closed in June 2009, Wilson explained, Pacific Charter School Development (PCSD) purchased the campus for $7.75 million from the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of Aspire Public Schools. Originally the tenant, Aspire later acquired the buildings from PCSD.
Having the former Loretto High School campus available for use headed off one of the biggest challenges Aspire Public Schools usually faces.
“For charter schools, it can be a challenge finding facilities,” Wilson said. “We’ve found that some of our best options are found in closed schools. And in this case, it is a true win-win for us because this property will allow us to both expand the number of kids we serve and be able to serve students through their high school years.”
At Aspire Public Schools’ 30 California schools, the emphasis, Wilson said, is on preparing students for university or college attendance. Results are impressive; 100 percent of Aspire Public Schools graduates last year were accepted to four-year universities or college, Wilson noted.
“The goal is to set a college-going culture on our campuses,” she said. “We want to ensure we have students who meet all state and grade standards and we emphasize writing and academic discourse as two key elements of college readiness.”
To help ready students for college, Aspire Public Schools feature slightly longer school days and school years, as well as an emphasis on academic preparedness. Touches like elementary classrooms that bear the names and mascots of the universities and colleges attended by the school’s teachers help to instill what Wilson calls a “college-going culture” among even the school’s youngest pupils.
“Student-to-student interaction is emphasized at our schools,” Wilson said. “And our teachers try to teach to each student as an individual, rather than teaching them all as a group.”
The school’s student body represents a cross-section of Sacramento County’s diverse population, with 40 percent of students coming from a Latino background, 33 percent from African-American backgrounds, 15 percent from Caucasian backgrounds, and the remaining 12 percent of students coming from other ethnic groups.
The student population, Wilson said, is “heavy on younger kids at the moment, but it will get older over time. Eventually, we plan to have two sections of students in each grade, K through 12.”
A growing student body also means a need for more teachers. That’s not a misprint: there are schools in the area that are adding, rather than laying off, teachers.
“We have about 25 teachers at that school right now, and we will be hiring new teachers as the school grows,” Wilson said. “I think Aspire appeals to a lot of teachers because of all the teacher collaboration we do and because of the coaching support our teachers know they will receive.”
For more information about enrolling or teaching at Aspire Public Schools, visit www.aspirepublicschools.org.