Monarch School opens new campus

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego school that is considered a model for the nation opened a new $15 million campus on Wednesday.

Monarch School is unique, not just because it is for homeless children, but because of the one thing it can give them that no traditional school can.

Nearly 600 people packed the school gym and everyone cheered, from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who called it "an incredible facility," to the crowd's standing ovation for Monarch School Principal Joel Garcia.

The new Monarch School campus in Barrio Logan, named after lead donors Nat and Flora Bosa, was a decade in the making, from discussions and planning, to fundraising and building. The campus is located at what used to be the city's winter homeless shelter.

It's been 25 years since Monarch's humble beginnings as a small drop-off center for homeless children in 1987.

During the opening ceremony, a parent named Rosanna described her hardship beginning with becoming a teen mom, parents with addiction problems and the father of her daughter now in prison.

"I lost my job, home and car," she said. "Without support, it is hard for anyone to make it on their own."

As mom gave daughter, a Monarch student, an emotional embrace on stage, it reminded everyone of why this school is so valuable.

Stephen Keiley, who has taught at Monarch for 12 years, said he can't believe the new building can hold 350 students. At 51,000 square feet, it's more than five times the size of the current building.

"Our entire current school would fit in that gym," said Keiley.

But it's not just about the bigger classroom, with a sink and window he's never had before, it's about how a school expressly for homeless children can empower them.

"They're able to tell us who they are. They don't have to hide," said Keiley.

In San Diego County, Office of Education statistics show there are more than 18,000 homeless children. For many who go to traditional schools, that means the added stress of trying to hide the fact they are homeless.

"It's so wonderful that someone would actually think of us and make a difference for us," said fifth grader Savannah, referring to the many who donated money to create the new Monarch School building.

Savannah said she lived in a van after her family lost their home. She said Monarch School, her friends and teachers give her hope for the future.

"I want to be an author, and one day I hope that my story will be inspiring and that maybe it will open up a door for someone else," Savannah said.

Once everything is moved over from the current location, classes at the new campus on Newton Avenue will begin May 22.

School officials says the entire cost was paid for with private donations.

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