SOUL charter school approved for Encinitas

On Jan. 19, the San Diego County Board of Education approved the SOUL charter school for a two-year term, the first charter school approved on appeal by the county since 2003. SOUL (School of Universal Learning), which aims to open its 7-12th grade school this fall in Encinitas, saw its petition denied by the San Dieguito Union School District last year and made an appeal to the county.

The county board first voted down a five-year approval of the school in a 3-2 vote, but the motion for a two-year approval received unanimous support.

SOUL co-founder Marissa Bruyneel said she was elated with the board’s decision.

“We are so excited to be the first charter school in the San Dieguito district and to bring a new model of education to San Diego. It is time to change our educational paradigm and ensure that students leave high school prepared to thrive in today’s world,” Bruyneel said.

In the coming months, SOUL will go to work securing a location in Encinitas, hiring staff and enrolling students. Bruyneel said parents are emailing them daily wanting to enroll their children and they currently have a list of 100 potential students.

“The majority of those students are in the San Dieguito Union High School District and, for a multitude of different reasons, are not thriving in their current school,” Bruyneel said. “We also had a table at Wellness Week at the Encinitas Library this past weekend and had several parents show up to discuss enrollment. The beauty of a charter school is that we are a school of choice and students located outside of the district can attend.”

The school expects to cap enrollment at 600 students.

SOUL plans to use a holistic approach to education, with experience-based and project-based learning and required electives such as entrepreneurship and essential life skills. All of the Common Core State Standards will be mastered and students will be assessed with MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests and Smarter Balanced Assessment tests like all public schools.

A typical day will also include their unique “Integra” program in which students participate in a morning meditation, a midday focus on self-development and an end-of-the-day reflection session.

The San Dieguito district and the San Diego County Office of Education staff found some “deficiencies” in SOUL’s educational program, as well as in the school’s financial and operating plans. However, SOUL received support and endorsement from the Charter School Management Corporation and the California Charter Schools Association, affirming that the school was fiscally viable, legally-compliant and educationally sound.

“Our mission is to provide exceptional education that awakens individuals to know who they are, discover their passion and purpose and thrive holistically, to achieve both mental and life mastery,” Bruyneel said. “Our goal is to revolutionize education. It may sound ambitious, but that’s who we are.”