Advocates Fight To Keep San Pasqual Academy Open
San Pasqual Academy (SPA), located in Escondido, is the first program of its kind that provides a home and school for foster youth.
Currently, there are 70 foster youth living at SPA. Divinity Hawkins is one of them.
“SPA’s like my home. SPA’s like a second chance for me, because I didn't have any chances out there in the real world,” Hawkins said.
The academy is a pilot program that was supposed to run until December. Now, the state of California wants to end it early, in October.
Hawkins said the school’s staff and students learned about the plan abruptly. “I called the office and said 'Is SPA closing down?' They said they didn't know about it. None of us were notified of it.”
Hawkins learned of a letter sent by the California Department of Social Services citing declining enrollment and changes to federal laws as reasons for the early closure.
The new federal law discourages funding for congregate living in foster care facilities. If SPA does close, the county will need to find new homes for the youth living there.
Advocates are asking to keep SPA open until June 2022 and want to carve an amendment for the SPA campus in the new federal law.
“It is a boarding school, and it should be carved out as a boarding school. We have boarding schools all over the country, that's not illegal,” said Shane Harris of the The People’s Association of Justice Advocates.
Advocates drafted a letter to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to support the closure extension.
Hawkins hopes that the board will consider how the closure impacts the youth living at SPA.
“SPA is like a huge family — we connect, we create bonds here. When you take those bonds away its just too much,” Hawkins said.
The matter goes to the Board of Supervisors next week.