Court injunction could change timeline for closure of San Pasqual Academy

Supporters of San Pasqual Academy, a boarding school for foster children, met outside the school in Escondido on May 4.
Supporters of San Pasqual Academy, a boarding school for foster children, met outside the school in Escondido in May.
(Andrea Lopez-Villafaña/The San Diego Union-Tribune )

Escondido boarding school for foster youth can stay open until state creates a new license category for the campus


A Superior Court judge has issued a ruling that may change the timeline for closing San Pasqual Academy, an Escondido boarding school for foster youth.

The school, located in the San Pasqual Valley near the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, was slated for closure under a 2015 state law that calls for foster youth to be placed in family homes instead of group homes. Supporters of the academy, which offers on-site education for foster children and teens, say it is not a traditional group home, so it should be allowed to continue operating.

In August, a group of nine residents, alumni and staff filed a lawsuit against San Diego County and the state of California. They asked the court to order the government agencies to continue licensing and funding the school.

On Dec. 1, Judge Ronald Dahlquist issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state of California from terminating the license for the school. He pointed to a section of the act that authorized San Pasqual Academy to keep operating as an on-site high school until the state creates a new licensing category for the campus.

Dahlquist said in his statement that both the state and county misunderstood the law, and the state is responsible for developing new license criteria for the academy. The academy would then need to submit a transition plan explaining how it would comply with requirements of the new license.

However, he said he would not weigh in on whether the county should refer new students to the campus or pay for its operation. Dahlquist said the decision whether to fund the school and to refer new students for placement there belongs with the government agencies, not a court.

In July, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to extend the contract for San Pasqual Academy through June 2022, allowing the school to continue operating through the end of the 2021-22 school year. It’s not clear from whether the preliminary injunction changes that timeline, or allows the academy to continue to run as a boarding school indefinitely.

Supervisors will discuss the court ruling in closed session at the board meeting Tuesday. They were scheduled to hold a public hearing on alternative plans for the San Pasqual Academy campus, but county spokesman Michael Workman said the board is likely to postpone the item until after it discusses the ruling.