New Olive Grove charter school branch opens in San Luis Obispo

Students of Olive Grove Charter School participate in a biology lab.
Students of Olive Grove Charter School participate in a biology lab.

Those seeking an alternative education for their kids have a new option with a learning center in San Luis Obispo.

Olive Grove Charter School, a free-tuition, public education program for families wanting to enroll their students in home or independent study programs with parents as the primary instructors, has opened a branch at 733 Marsh St., Suite 210.

The school offers a standard state curriculum to students in grades K-12 with a transitional kindergarten program as well.

Students at all levels are required to spend an hour a week with a teacher, with most of their education taking place at home under the guidance of their parents or through independent study plans. They also attend support classes.

Olive Grove already has learning center branches in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Buellton and New Cuyama that serve 210 students. The school had learning centers in San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay that closed within the past few years.

The San Luis Obispo branch closed five years ago when it moved to Morro Bay, and then the Morro Bay location closed last year when Olive Grove’s charter was threatened as part of the Los Olivos School District. The California State Board of Education approved the school’s petition to keep its charter and Olive Grove is now its own district.

Olive Grove is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting agency for traditional public schools in California.

Within the state curriculum standards, Olive Grove offers instructional flexibility tailored to a student’s interests, Principal Michael Fair said.

“For example, if a student in a history class wanted to spend a week focusing on the Dutch colonization of South Africa and a day on the French Revolution, instead of the vice versa, if that’s something that fits into the curriculum, it could be done that way,” Fair said.

Olive Grove offers support classes in math and English/language arts; students in a lab science courses attend wet lab sessions and those in art classes attend art workshop sessions as well. Math and English/language support classes meet twice per week, art classes meet once per week and science wet labs meet every other week.

Parents of children in transitional kindergarten through the 8th grades are required to attend the weekly meetings with the student and teacher. Parents of students in grades 9 through 12 must attend the weekly student-teacher meeting at least once per month.

“In our home school program, the parent typically is as heavily involved as the teacher,” Fair said.

The school offers an underwater robotics club, a weekly program held in Buellton that’s open to all students. Olive Grove also offers digital photography, held in San Luis Obispo as well as other locations, among other activities.

This year, students also will have the opportunity to participate in music and chess clubs in San Luis Obispo, starting in mid- to late September. High school students may take advanced placement courses and dual enroll in community colleges.

The first day of classes for the school begins Friday, but students may enroll at any time throughout the year, Fair said.