CANNON BEACH – Students, their families and residents gathered for an open house Thursday to celebrate the beginning of the Cannon Beach Academy’s first school year, as well as the end of the four years of work it took to make it happen.
It was the first public unveiling of the school after a summer’s worth of renovations. To the backdrop of a potluck and live music, students and their families explored classrooms and met the teachers who will be welcoming on the first day of school Tuesday.
“We’re really happy to see this succeed,” said Dania Nolazco, whose younger brother is enrolled in the first- and- second-grade blended class.
Nolazco still remembers the sadness she felt when she heard the news of Cannon Beach Elementary School closing, the school she attended.
Going to school in Cannon Beach was a large part of her childhood, she said, and she was happy to see with the academy opening that was an experience she could now share with her brother.
“There were a lot of ups and downs, and we were just hoping for the best,” she said. “A lot of people put a lot of hard work into making this happen.”
Because of budget issues, the Cannon Beach Academy board had to change locations for the charter school in May. That left only a few months to secure the lease for the current location at 3781 S Hemlock St. from the city and finish necessary renovations before a fall opening.
Dania’s father, Rafael, said he and his family have lived in Cannon Beach for about 22 years. When they first heard about the possibility of a charter school coming to town, they enrolled their son right away.
For Rafael Nolazco, smaller class sizes and having a school in the community where they live and work were integral.
“This community is so great. We deserve to have a school,” he said.
While having a school in town was an important aspect for many of the parents with enrolled children, what brought many to commit to the academy was a bilingual curriculum — something unique for the North Coast.
Cannon Beach residents Julianne and Jeff Kropf decided to enroll their child in Cannon Beach Academy instead of Seaside partially because of it.
“It was a difficult decision, because our daughter was enrolled in Seaside Heights last year,” Julianne Kropf said. “There is a lot of value having it near our home, but also the fact they are teaching Spanish here was a huge positive to switch.”
While the school is not fully bilingual, teacher Leticia Campos will be in charge of making sure every student is exposed to the language for a portion of the day. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in history at Eastern Oregon University, Campos minored in Spanish and the English language learner program.
“It’s very important for our community to do this because languages open the doors to the rest of the world,” Campos said. “It’s better to expose language when they are young. Kids are like sponges.”
This is Campos’ first job as a teacher since earning her degree, but she has been a teacher’s assistant with Seaside School District for more than 10 years. She heard about the position to teach Spanish at the academy from a co-worker while she was working at the high school. She said she’s always known teaching young children was her passion, and she was intrigued by the idea of being a part of a school from the very beginning to help grow programs.
But to get there, Campos balanced raising a family and work with slowly picking away at classes at Clatsop Community College and Eastern Oregon University until her kids were grown.
She then had the time to get her master’s at Portland State University to finish achieving her dream.
“I love to teach younger students because you get to show them a world of opportunity,” she said. “There’s a difference between having a dream and making a dream come true, and you can teach them that.”