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River Islands Technology Academy green light given for cutting-edge high-tech school
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LATHROP - After almost of year of extensive negotiations, the Banta Elementary School District Board voted unanimously to approve the River Islands Technology Academy, a new K-12 charter school located at the River Islands master planned community in Lathrop

In an era where charter schools are rarely in favor with the local school district due to their potential to divert funding away from the district, the cooperation between the two entities is notable.  Dozens of workshops were held about the charter and there was significant involvement from the community and school staff.  The final deal involves an arrangement where the developer of River Islands will reimburse Banta for funds that are lost if current students attend the new charter school. “To our knowledge, the agreement is unprecedented” said Susan Dell’Osso, project director for River Islands.  “It really resulted in a beneficial solution for all parties.”

The charter will lease the $25 million school campus currently under construction by the Banta District on the River Islands property.  The new facility, designed by HMC of Sacramento and being constructed by Sundt, features the latest technology and will provide 25 state-of-the-art, high-tech classrooms.  All students will receive computers or tablets which will provide an interactive teaching environment which can be tailored for personalized learning. 

“All children learn differently” stated Bill Draa, the current superintendent of Banta.  “This charter will allow the curriculum to be tailored to each student’s needs and will provide immediate feedback to the teacher so they can guide each individual student’s educational process.”

The school facility will be completed in early 2013 and the charter will open in August of 2013. 

Dell’Osso as project director of River Islands, was the Petitioner of the charter School.  She was also appointed to the new charter board along with four other members.  Albert Garibaldi, the incoming superintendent of Banta brings extensive K-8 experience and will represent the Banta district.  Kitty Towers, a technology expert who currently works at Banta will provide input on the school’s technology.  Gene Neely, the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief, will provide a connection to the local community.  And, Rick Arucan, a retired educator who actually started Sierra High School, will bring secondary education experience to the group.

“We have an excellent team” Dell’Osso said.  “Each member brings a different expertise to the board and each is committed to making sure this school is a huge success”. 

River Islands will eventually generate 8,000 new school students for the Banta District.  River Islands previously agreed to a full funding mitigation agreement with Banta that requires River Islands to pay for all costs associated with new school construction as the housing development for River Islands took place and the resulting students were generated.  However, with the recent housing recession, new neighborhoods have yet to be constructed in River Islands.  Despite this, Califia and Banta made the bold decision to construct the new charter school in advance of any new housing development.  The new facility will be only the second school within the Banta School District.

“We are excited about the prospect of bringing such an innovative school to our District,” said Albert Garibaldi, Banta’s incoming Superintendent.  “The cooperation between all those involved has been without question beyond what public agencies are accustomed to.” 

The uncommon charter arrangement for the schools will focus the curriculum on new and emerging technology and draw students from all over San Joaquin County initially until students are generated from the River Islands project itself. Ultimately, the River Islands master planned community will contain six elementary schools, two middle schools and a new high school, all specifically geared toward academic excellence.