Entrance to San Pasqual Academy. Photo courtesy Google Street View

San Diego County Supervisors will consider next week a plea to keep the “one-of-a-kind” San Pasqual Academy for foster youth open through June 2022 as supporters seek a long-term solution.

Rev. Shane Harris, himself a graduate of the academy, released a letter Thursday from the county’s chief administrative officer recommending that the supervisors vote on March 16 to keep the academy open.

Harris, founder of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, said closing the academy this year will re-create the trauma that foster youth have already experienced.

“Vote yes; request the extension from the state,” Harris urged supervisors at a press conference. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The academy outside Escondido is a community of cottages managed by house parents with 70 current students aged 12 to 19, the majority from minority groups. At issue are changing state and federal guidelines that encourage foster youth to be placed in foster homes, not institutions, and the academy needs a special exemption.

“It’s a boarding school; it’s not congregant care,” said Harris, challenging the idea that the academy is an institution.

Former county Supervisor Ron Roberts, who was instrumental is founding the academy two decades ago, called it a “model for the nation” that must be preserved.

“What we have today is a call to action. This is the premier program for foster kids in the nation,” Roberts said at the press conference.

A 2020 study by UC Davis found that students who attend the academy have a 97% high school graduation rate.

The academy is currently slated to close Oct. 1 with state and federal funding ending, so the supervisors will need to allocate county funds to keep it open.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.