Justin Jones attended 11 high schools before he finally found his place at Fusion Charter.
During a Turlock Unified School District Board meeting in January, Jones spoke before trustees about his time spent at the free public charter school, which was opened to the community in 2014. He told them that Fusion Charter was the first school where he felt welcomed by students and faculty, and that the support he received from staff — particularly Aspiranet Division Director Chris Essary, which he referred to as a father figure — helped him to graduate earlier this year.
“We just like the opportunity that we get to interact with kids in the actual community and go to school and kind of feel normal, so to speak, for a brief time in our lives,” Jones told trustees. “It’s very welcoming to know that all you here are behind that and who are accepting of us no matter what our backgrounds may be.”
After hearing Jones’ success story during the Jan. 17 meeting, the TUSD trustees unanimously approved a five-year charter renewal for Fusion Charter through 2022.
“The unanimous renewal vote shows the support that TUSD has for Fusion Charter,” said Principal Susan Nisan. “In 20 years in the charter world, I have seen how important genuine authorizer support is to the long-term success of a charter school. We are pleased that TUSD has renewed our charter for the next five years as we continue to serve students who thrive with personalized attention and a hands-on approach to learning.”
Formed in 2014 from a partnership between TUSD and Aspiranet, Fusion Charter provides a unique educational opportunity for students in grades seven through 12 who do not succeed in a traditional school environment. The school blends direct instruction from credentialed teachers with online learning to create a specialized educational alternative for students. Students either prepare themselves to return to TUSD or choose to continue and graduate at Fusion Charter, where they receive a high school diploma that equips them for postsecondary and college opportunities.
There are currently 145 students enrolled at Fusion Charter, according to Nisan, who said that this number increases as the year progresses. Last year, the school wrapped up with 182 students, and Nisan said that final totals continue to grow each year.
At Fusion Charter, students benefit from a smaller setting, as well as more flexibility and support than a typical independent study program. Students attend school three hours a day, wherein they engage in hands-on learning and technology-based instruction to prepare them for adult life. Nisan said that the school balances the “tried and true” hands-on projects with the innovative, which includes the latest online curriculum to meet California state standards.
“Students are able to shine here and participate in activities at school and in the community that they would not have participated in at a traditional school where students with higher GPAs would be selected,” said Nisan.
The partnership between TUSD and Aspiranet is not the only one worth mentioning at the public charter school. Nisan said that Fusion Charter also fortifies partnerships between the school and families through its Strengthening Families Program for parents and teens, and partnerships between the student and teacher, which she regarded as the most important.
“We serve a high percentage of foster youth — about 30 percent — and other students who deserve trustworthy adults in their lives,” said Nisan. “Fusion gives students a new safe and accepting place with a diverse population of student needs. Respect for social and emotional needs comes before students can respond to academic learning. Fusion starts with the heart and moves forward. We understand that the past was difficult, but we are here to move forward into the future.”
Looking ahead into the next five years, Nisan said that Fusion Charter has two major goals — one of which is to increase hands-on learning, with an emphasis on younger students. She added that the school, which currently enrolls students in seventh through 12th grade, will begin accepting sixth grade students in the future.
“We want to engage students in learning in order to prevent credit deficiency and also meet the emotional needs of young teens,” said Nisan.
Nisan said that the school would also like to build more community connections, both for the short term in order to meet student needs for social-emotional support and for the long term to improve students’ futures by preparing them for jobs in the community.
“As we do this we look forward to showing the community the wonderful, talented great young people we work with on a daily basis at Fusion Charter,” said Nisan.
More information on Fusion Charter, including enrollment forms, can be found online at fc-k12-pt.schoolloop.com.