James Lianides, superintendent of the Sequoia Union High School District, is scheduled to be on stage at the Performing Arts Center at Woodside High School on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to discuss projections predicting that high school enrollment will expand beyond carrying capacity by the 2020-21 school year.
The issue is complicated by lack of available land in the district for a new comprehensive high school, as well as funds -- $200 million -- in the district's capital account. The higher enrollment is expected to make heavy demands on staff and facilities, Mr. Lianides said.
The option of building up -- turning one-story classroom buildings into two stories -- is expensive as well as inefficient logistically, Mr. Lianides has said, because building another floor on top of the first floor means that the first floor cannot be used for classes.
Last but not in any sense least, there is the priority of keeping middle school communities together. For decades, eighth-graders in the Las Lomitas Elementary School District who are assigned to Woodside High School have had first dibs on seats at academically high-performing Menlo-Atherton High School under the open enrollment system. All that Las Lomitas families have to do is apply by the deadline and they're in.
Meanwhile in the Ravenswood City School District, which is geographically closer to M-A, families must participate in a lottery. A consent decree from the early 1980s required the Sequoia district to divide the Ravenswood community's eighth-graders among three schools: M-A, Woodside and Carlmont High in Belmont.
After the closing of poorly performing Ravenswood High School, this was a welcome change at the time, and it did improve socio-economic diversity at the three schools. But the consent decree expired after six years and Ravenswood parents and students now care more about the integrity of the eighth-grade community. Parents have wondered aloud as to who is really benefiting from this orchestrated socio-economic diversity.
Many Ravenswood families do apply for another school, often M-A, through open enrollment. About 75 percent are admitted, Mr. Lianides said. Two thirds of the applications to M-A come from families assigned to Woodside and Carlmont.
If transferred to M-A, Ravenswood students will walk to school, but if their applications are denied, they must continue to ride the bus.
Woodside and M-A have instituted a school day that begins at 9 a.m., based on research showing that teens need the extra hour of sleep. But because they are bused to Woodside and Carlmont, Ravenswood kids may live in the neighborhood of M-A but are denied the full benefit of a later start that would come with attending M-A.
Carlmont has not changed its schedule in tune with the research, so the first period still starts at 8 a.m. The Carlmont bus leaves Ravenswood at around 7. Catch it or miss a day of school, Mr. Lianides said.