It was standing room only Monday night, as the Hesperia Unified School District school board held their first meeting in the auxiliary building behind HUSD headquarters on Main Street.

And dozens of people crowded into the conference room were wearing red, a symbolic gesture expressing their support for the proposed Encore High School performing arts charter school.

"Just like in 'Fame,' kids can dance and sing and still go onto college," said John Griffin, a Hesperia High School teacher and one of the co-founders of Encore, describing the proposed school to the board Monday night. "We would be proud to have Hesperia be the home of the first youth orchestra in the High Desert."

The school, which its founders hope to open on August 8, 2008, would serve 600 students from grades seven through 12, with a 25:1 initial student-to-teacher ratio and focus on the performing and visual arts, incorporating them into a rounded education.

In addition to having the arts program that more and more secondary schools across the nation lack, it will lack another thing, say its founders: take-home homework. Each school day will finish up with a 90-minute study period for the completion of homework, with teachers available to help students.

"We wanted to give our students and parents a quality home life," said Paula Gharib, another Hesperia High teacher and the future curriculum principal of Encore High School.

Although there is already one a performing arts charter school in the High Desert -- the Academy of Performing Arts and Foreign Language in Victorville -- it only serves students through the sixth grade.

To make sure their 500-page proposal would succeed, the founders worked with the California Charter School Association to get it in picture-perfect shape, they said.

"We surrounded ourselves with experts," said Denise Griffin, wife of John and the director of the Star Quest Arts Academy after school program.

It was fortuitous timing for the Encore presentation: The school board also heard their first report from the district's choice school committee, which presented the results of a survey sent to 12,000 homes. Like Encore High School, the HUSD's proposed schools of choice would allow students -- elementary school students, in this case -- focus on the sort of curriculum they were most interested in, as part of a general educational curriculum.

Of the 657 surveys returned to the district office, four proposed schools were the clear stand-outs, said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Jovy Yankaskas.

A fine arts and foreign language school, similar to the Academy of Performing Arts and Foreign Language, came in first place, with 238 votes. A school of visual and performing arts, similar to the Encore High School concept, came in second, with 185 votes. A combination of two choices off the survey, making for a school of science, technology and mathematics, came in third with 174 votes. And a school of sports and fitness came in fourth, with 135 votes.

"Having visited some of the choice schools around the valley, I'm excited about bringing these opportunities to the students in our district," board member Hardy Black said.

But Monday night's meeting was just the dress rehearsal: At the school board's next meeting on October 22, the Encore High School team's performance will be for real, when the school board votes to approve or decline their application to open a charter school under the umbrella of the HUSD.

If the Encore High School proposal meets all of the 16 state-mandated criteria -- including having a founding philosophy, financial planning, measurable student outcomes, a governance structure, plans for student admission and attendance and have to show the impact on the charter authorizer -- the board is likely to approve the petition.

"There are only five reasons that a district can reject [a charter]," said Arlene Gluck, the district's Director of Alternative Education. "They boil down to reasons that say 'we don't think this charter can't be implemented as designed, or it's not a good design, or they have financial problems.' ... This is a very charter-friendly state and a charter-friendly governor, and they want to make it hard to reject a charter."

That said, Gluck rejects more charter applications than she approves, for failing to meet any of the 16 criteria. After jumping through the state's various hoops, "by the time it reaches the board, it's a pretty good charter" petition, she said.

The next HUSD school board meeting will be held October 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the AESC building at 15576 Main Street.

For more information about Encore High School, visit EncoreHighSchool.com.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.