The Ravenswood City School District is hosting a series of community meetings through next week to inform the public about a request from KIPP Valiant Community Prep for a long-term location, which would likely displace an existing district school.
KIPP, one of two charter schools authorized by the district, is currently housed in 18 classrooms at the adjacent Brentwood and Los Robles/McNair sites. The charter school opened in 2017 and plans to expand to include eighth grade by 2021, with a maximum enrollment of 610 students. Starting this fall, the school plans to enroll 558 students, according to the school district.
Under Proposition 39, public school districts are required to make facilities available to charter schools to ensure all students have access. KIPP submitted a facilities request to the district in November. The charter school did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.
The district initially hoped to offer KIPP space at the former Runnymede School site, where Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School operates, but a district architect and attorney said it would not be physically feasible, Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff said at the Dec. 13 school board meeting.
The district also reviewed enrollment capacity at every available site and determined that co-locating the charter school with Ravenswood programs was not feasible, attorney Elizabeth Mori of firm Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost told the board in December. Belle Haven Elementary School appears to be the "likely site scenario," Mori said.
The school board will ultimately decide whether Belle Haven, Brentwood, Costaño or Willow Oaks will house KIPP starting this fall. Students and teachers from the affected neighborhood school will be moved to other sites, and the district will likely have to reduce staff, specifically administrators, according to a frequently-asked-questions page on the issue posted on the district's website Friday.
Ravenswood is now under a tight deadline to make a difficult decision that is already sparking tensions in the community about which school will be affected. The district is required to make a final facilities offer to KIPP on or before April 1.
"Given KIPP's expected increase in enrollment, need for more space, and the implications for students and families currently attending district schools, this has understandably created anxiety and uncertainty within our community, as well as numerous questions and concerns regarding the district's legal obligations and plans moving forward," the FAQ states.
KIPP's growth comes at a cost to the district, which is losing an increasing number of students each year to other schools and the funding attached to them. Lingering dissatisfaction with district leadership and the state of the district, compounded by KIPP's expansion request, have prompted more than 200 community members to sign a petition calling for Hernandez-Goff's removal.
In a Facebook post on Friday, board President Tamara Sobomehin, speaking for herself and not on behalf of the board, urged the community to "engage in constructive and mindful conversation with each other" about KIPP's expansion.
"This is a time where we should come together as a supportive community -- not rally against each other -- as we navigate this challenge," she wrote.
Below is the schedule of community meetings:
Feb. 2: Cesar Chavez Academy/Ravenswood Middle School multipurpose room, 2450 Ralmar Ave., East Palo Alto; 9-10:30 a.m.
Feb. 4: Costaño School gymnasium, 2695 Fordham St., East Palo Alto; 6-7:30 p.m.
Feb. 5: Belle Haven Elementary School multipurpose room, 415 Ivy Drive, Menlo Park; 6-7:30 p.m.
Feb. 6: Willow Oaks Elementary multipurpose room, 620 Willow Road, Menlo Park; 5:45-7:15 p.m.
Feb. 7: Brentwood Academy multipurpose room, 2086 Clarke St., East Palo Alto; 6-7:30 p.m.
Feb. 9: District board room, 2120 Euclid Ave., East Palo Alto; 1-2:30 p.m.