Rancho Solano Prep closing 2 campuses; parents speak out

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Many parents are upset after learning a private school will be closing two campuses at the end of this school year.

Rancho Solano Preparatory School is closing its Hillcrest Campus in Peoria, which is preschool through eighth grade, and the Gilbert Campus, which is preschool through fifth grade, to consolidate its efforts at its two Scottsdale campuses.

At a community meeting at the Hillcrest campus Wednesday night, parents said they were told that Peoria doesn't have the right growth potential for the private school, which has a new high school campus in Scottsdale.

Parents said they were informed of the decision on Monday and comparable schools in the area are already filled with long waiting lists.

"The most frustrating part about all this is the way they handled the timing of this -- I don't think you do this without much planning -- and the fact that this was done after most of the registrations were closed," parent David Bettes said.

Bettes' three children attend school at the Peoria location. He doesn't know where they will go to school next year.

"My 10-year-old, for an example, I had to put her to bed crying for two nights," Bettes said. "This is what she knows. This is all that she knows."

The school will offer free busing for students in Peoria and Gilbert, but angry parents say busing their children that far is not an option.

Parents said that just three weeks ago, they were told that the school was committed to keeping a presence in the West Valley and that's why they hadn't been looking for other options.

"They're in the business of educating youth, why is this community not as vital as the community over in Scottsdale?" parent Shannon Rains said. "Why is the Gilbert community not as vital as what's in Scottsdale?"

Statement from Dr. Audrey Menard, Head of School at Rancho Solano Preparatory School
"Our mission at Rancho Solano is to provide the very best education experience for students -- a rigorous, personalized academic curriculum and strong sense of community that help students develop the character and competitive edge that they need to excel in college and beyond.

"In order to continue to fulfill our mission in the future, we will be consolidating our campuses next year and will be moving our Early Learning and Lower School to our Greenway campus and our Middle School and High School to our new Ventura campus. Ventura has a strong track record of student outcomes and is situated on a brand new campus with state-of-the-art classrooms and athletic facilities which will benefit from further advancements in technology and facilities. Greenway has a strong legacy in the community for Early Learning and is in close proximity to Ventura.

"Bringing together our student populations at these locations allows us to build a global education experience with outstanding student outcomes. In addition, this change is going to allow us to continue to invest in our staff and faculty development, facilities and new technologies.
"We’re working to help families with this transition, including offering courtesy busing to both Greenway and Ventura for students.

"We have a commitment to all Rancho Solano students to provide the best education experience possible and we will deliver on this commitment for all campuses for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year."