Almanac

Schools - February 3, 2010

District offers charter school space on Woodside campus

by Dave Boyce

An offer of school facilities is on the table to Everest Public High School for the 2010-11 school year. It comes from the Sequoia Union High School District, which fought unrelentingly to prevent Everest from opening its doors to its first freshman class last August.

The district is now offering to relocate Everest's freshman and sophomore classes from 18,000-square-feet in a well-equipped office building in Redwood City, where the school has a two-year lease, to a one-year stint on the campus of Woodside High School, where the school would have eight classrooms plus an administrative office.

Everest is a sister to popular Summit Preparatory Charter High School. Both were heavily over-subscribed in the spring of 2009.

The offer comes in the context of a lawsuit. Everest is suing the Sequoia district, claiming that the district acted illegally in offering to house Everest in several modular classroom buildings for two years in residential East Palo Alto.

Jim Lianides, an assistant superintendent for the Sequoia district, outlined the new offer on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to the district's governing board, with representatives from Everest and Woodside High in attendance.

Diane Tavenner, co-founder of Everest and Summit Prep, said she asked the district for an advance copy of the offer before the board meeting and was refused. Ms. Tavenner had no comment on the preliminary offer.

Woodside High officials did not learn of the proposal until the day before the meeting, Mr. Lianides said.

The district plans to mail a detailed offer to Everest officials on Monday, Feb. 1, Mr. Lianides said. Everest would have a month to evaluate it, followed by a month to allow the district to prepare a final offer — which the board would have to approve. Everest would then have 30 days to accept or reject it.

Everest and other local charter schools are entitled to facilities because the Sequoia district, on three occasions in the last decade, used a provision in the law that allows passage of a bond measure with less than the two-thirds majority normally required for tax increases.

Why offer space at Woodside High? It's the one comprehensive school with the lower enrollment to accommodate what Mr. Lianides said would be 190 Everest students.

The district has staunchly defended the legitimacy of its East Palo Alto offer, so why the switch?

A possible explanation: a two-year stay at the East Palo Alto site would be untenable, Mr. Lianides told the board, without more classroom and parking space.

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