The county grand jury Thursday praised the San Pasqual Academy, but questioned why the school that houses and provides an education for foster youth near Escondido operates at only half its capacity.
In its report, the grand jury said the Board of Supervisors made “a sound investment in taxpayer’s dollars” in the 16-year-old school.
“San Pasqual Academy returns this investment by producing productive citizens and taxpayers,” the report said, citing statistics on outcomes for former foster youth who have aged out of the system.
However, the jurors found that the academy’s enrollment in October was at 50 percent of authorized capacity — a figure that hasn’t changed in the six months since — and that the student population has consistently been below the maximum of 184.
“San Pasqual Academy operating below capacity wastes taxpayer resources and fails to capitalize on the principle of economies of scale,” the report said.
The grand jury recommended the county establish a plan to increase enrollment at the academy and issue quarterly progress reports to boost student interest.
According to the county, enrollment is impacted by a variety of factors, including a desire to keep families together as much as possible or to place siblings in foster homes close to each other, along with juvenile court decisions.
On top of that is a long-running plunge in the overall population of foster youth. In 2013, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the number of annual out-of-home placements in the region dropped to 3,100, from around 6,800 in 2000.
For the 90 students at San Pasqual Academy, the outcomes are likely to be better than the foster population as a whole, according to the grand jury.
More than 90 percent of academy students graduate or obtain their graduation equivalent, compared to 50 percent of foster children nationally, the report said. Sixty percent of 337 academy alumni have attended college and 10 percent graduate, compared to 10 percent and 3 percent, respectively, nationwide.
About one-third of male foster youth will wind up behind bars before they turn 21. Only 0.59 percent of academy graduates have been incarcerated, the report said.
The county has until June 28 to respond to the report.
–City News Service
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