Slide from the Samoa Beach Academy’s presentation.




At a special Northern Humboldt Union High School District board meeting Tuesday night, petitioners for a new charter high school, named the Samoa Beach Academy, presented plans for their school to the NoHum community. With career and technical education (CTE) at the forefront of their curriculum, the Samoa Beach Academy would cater to both college- and career-bound high school students, with plans to offer three CTE pathways — building and construction trades, health and science medical technology, and business and finance. The petitioners hope to open for the 2021 fall semester, beginning with an enrollment of 150 students that would eventually grow to 400 students over the school’s first few years.

The charter’s presentation on Tuesday was brief (see the petition here or a summary here). Though a couple community members appeared in support of the idea, it was mostly met with concerns during public comment. Voicing worries about enrollment, a few teachers (many of whom prefaced their remarks with nods to the importance of CTE) suggested that NoHum should expand existing CTE programs rather than opening a whole new school.

With current enrollment at 1,665, NoHum’s student population would drop by nearly 25 percent if Samoa Beach Academy’s students all come from within the district. (However, living in the district would not be a requirement to enroll.)

“The idea that we could lose even 10 percent of our students is going to have a significant impact,” JoAnn Moore, a teacher at Arcata High, said. “If we lost more than that it would have a profound impact on the electives that we could offer, the funding that we would have, the teachers that we would be able to retain and the opportunities that we would have for our students.”

Likelihood of declined enrollment is not a reason that a governing board could deny the approval of a charter petition in California. The grounds to disapprove a charter include the presentation of an “unsound educational program” or that “petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition,” among other things.

Distress about enrollment and the impact the charter might have on existing clubs and classes were echoed by students as well. One Arcata High student expressed concerns about the potential diversity of the Samoa Beach Academy, saying that at such a small school, BIPOC students might feel uncomfortable and unwelcome given that the district isn’t very diverse as it is.

The board will continue to discuss the charter at future meetings. Its final decision is due on March 6.