Officials from Everest Public (charter) High School are readying a leased office building in Redwood City for its first freshman class, while the Sequoia Union High School District -- its offer of facilities in East Palo Alto having been rejected by Everest -- reports that it is proceeding anyway to prepare the East Palo Alto site as a future home for charter schools.
There is deep disagreement between the two sides on the legality of the East Palo Alto offer. Both have said they expect to meet in court and prevail, but Everest recently raised the stakes for the Sequoia district.
In a May 12 letter to district Superintendent Patrick Gemma, Everest asserts a claim for payment of $2.3 million, basically $939,000 to cover a three-year lease and about $1.4 million in expenses associated with converting an 18,000-square-foot office building at 955 Charter St. in Redwood City into a school.
Everest attorney Paul Minney said in an e-mail that the payout would $2.5 million from about $200,000 in attorney's fees if the district loses in court.
The Sequoia district did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
The district has 45 days to respond to the damage claim, at which point, Mr. Minney said, Everest would begin lawsuit proceedings in San Mateo County Superior Court.
Everest had offered to settle in March, asking the district to spend the $2.3 million at the Charter Street site instead of $4 million in East Palo Alto. The district declined, citing findings of soil and groundwater contaminants by the town of Redwood City. Everest acknowledged the contaminants, but said they will be safely removed.
This is the second time Mr. Minney is involved in legal action against the Sequoia district. In 2003, he won a judgment against the district when district officials contended, in part, that Aurora (charter) High School did not have enough students to warrant the district's providing facilities.
In his May 12 letter, Mr. Minney repeats allegations of illegality made earlier. The offer of portable classroom buildings in East Palo Alto, with options to go off-campus for activities that need specialized facilities, is unreasonable, he said. The portables would be too far from where Everest wanted to locate, unreasonably spread out, and discriminatory against Everest students compared with what their counterparts have in Menlo-Atherton and Sequoia high schools, he said.
The offer at 763 Green St. in East Palo Alto was made in good faith, said district Assistant Superintendent James Lianides in a May 7 letter to Everest founder Diane Tavenner.
The walk to gym facilities at a nearby YMCA is equivalent in distance to a walk across the campus of Sequoia High School, Mr. Lianides said. Additional facilities -- such as art and science rooms and drama facilities -- would be available at M-A, a distance of about 4 miles.
The East Palo Alto campus would have more classroom space than requested and is "conducive to a small-learning environment that is aligned with the design of charter schools," he added.
The site is about 5 miles from Everest's sister school, Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City, and is "in fact, reasonably near where Everest asked to be located," Mr. Lianides said.