Advocates for a residential home in San Diego's North County for dependents of juvenile court are devastated that California plans to shutter the state-run site later this year.
San Pasqual Academy, which has been open for two decades, was the first of its kind in the nation. It has served hundreds of children as part of a pilot program set to expire in December 2021.
Staff and students, however, recently got notice that San Pasqual Academy would close months earlier, in October.
Eman Mansour Ponce, a foster child, said she and her peers at San Pasqual are heartbroken that their school and home will close for good.
"They promised before they got here that this would be their last home, this would be their last placement and this would be their permanent home," Eman said.
In October, the state will implement a federal law that discourages funding for congregant living in foster-care facilities. As a result, the county will need to find new homes for the approximately 70 students who live at the academy.
Vivianna Penn, a San Pasqual alumni and staff member, said the decision feels like it's tearing a family apart.
"I feel like, once again, I am being separated from my siblings but we're actually in a happy home … but we are not a broken family we don't need to be fixed," Penn said.
One advocate for the academy is local activist Shane Harris, who was formerly a student of the academy. He penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for an extension but in the long term, Harris is hoping the state will make an exception for San Pasqual.
Harris said he wants "all of us to come together to work with state legislators to amend AB 403 ... and carve out a special section in the legislation for San Pasqual Academy's future."
Late last month, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher did say in a letter that said the county had no role in the loss of the state license to operate the site. He also said he supports pushing the closure back to June 2022.
San Diego County expects the school's $13 million annual budget to fund other services for families — and for all foster children over the age of 12, not just those who attend San Pasqual.