Entrance to San Pasqual Academy. Photo courtesy Google Street View

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved extending a contract Tuesday that will allow the San Pasqual Academy to remain open through June 30, 2022.

Located in Escondido, the academy is described by county officials as a first-in-the-nation residential educational campus designed specifically for foster youth. It was slated to close in October due to declining enrollment. State and federal law changes regarding foster care will also end funding.

With its vote, the board also authorized the county Department of Purchasing and Contracting to negotiate with New Alternatives Inc. on a contract extension at a cost of $6.27 million.

On May 18, supervisors approved a proposal to “re-imagine and restructure” SPA, which educates and houses foster youth, in a manner consistent with state and federal law. Helen Robbins Meyer, county chief administrative officer, was directed to work with stakeholders to ensure that SPA also serves young people with different needs, to look at ways to serve alumni, explore the possibility of transitional housing, and enter into agreement with the state for an extension until June 2022 that also allows for a transition.

During that May 18 meeting, board Chairman Nathan Fletcher suggested the changes, saying a restructure was necessary for San Pasqual to stay open.

“Our commitment to the youth in our county compels us to find creative and new ways to best meet the needs of our most vulnerable,” Fletcher said. “While the model will change, our commitment to our youth and services at this location remains the same.”

Fletcher said the board needed to look at all options under state and federal law. SPA can continue to be a place that serves county youth, he said, “but it’s going to be different. It cannot remain as-is. If we get focused on that, there’s gonna be a lot of good things we can do.”

Supervisor Jim Desmond said that despite a difference of opinion over the academy’s long-term future, the topic has “sparked a lot of passion and energy. We all agree we’ve got something really good here,” Desmond said. “This is a jewel of San Diego County. I hated giving up on it altogether.”

Desmond said while he strongly supports SPA’s existing program, he also understands that the state won’t allow that.

In March, supervisors had unanimously agreed to ask the state Department of Social Services to extend the academy’s operations.

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