The community discussions have only just begun as Sequoia district Superintendent James Lianides embarks on a series of meetings at Sequoia's four comprehensive high schools. He comes to Woodside High at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29.
The increase in enrollment, coupled with a finite amount of space at Sequoia's four high schools — Menlo-Atherton, Woodside, Sequoia in Redwood City and Carlmont, which serves Belmont and San Carlos — may incline the Sequoia board toward equalizing enrollment at all four schools and possibly restructuring old agreements that required two-thirds of Ravenswood students to be bused to Carlmont and Woodside rather than attend Menlo-Atherton, which is much closer to home.
If Mr. Lianides and the Sequoia board do redraw attendance district boundaries so that the high schools serve students who live closest to them, it may mean that some or all Las Lomitas district students from Menlo Park, Atherton and Ladera will be assigned to Woodside High rather than M-A. It could mean that Ravenswood City School District students will fill most of the seats at M-A, where students in recent years have achieved very high scores on standardized tests.
It's about numbers. This year the Sequoia district has about 8,300 students, but that total is expected to hit 10,000 in the 2020-21 school year. Simply dividing the additional 1,700 students between four high schools would add 425 to each school. To reach parity, each school would have to accommodate 2,400 students, assuming enrollments remain the same among the four charter schools and at Redwood Continuation High School (for students in need of an alternative route to a diploma).
Equal enrollment at all four high schools is problematic because capacity is 2,200 per school. M-A could accommodate another 200. Woodside, now at 1,700, theoretically has room for 500 more. But where would the classrooms go? There simply is no room on these campuses.
While a new high school would seem the obvious answer, Mr. Lianides says it is not possible. There are no sites available and essentially no money in the capital budget. What to do? The district board wants to discuss it and has proposed four talking points, or tenets, in no particular order:
• Equal distribution of students and facilities.
• Maintain some student choice in selecting a school.
• Maintain socio-economic diversity at Carlmont High School in Belmont.
• Maintain intact middle-school communities where possible, given possible boundary changes.
Already some parents, particularly in the Las Lomitas district, have voiced great concern about their children losing touch with the community of M-A, where academic performance is currently about 100 points higher (on a 1,000 point scale) than at Woodside. An examination of the current practices shows that Las Lomitas students, despite living farther from M-A, have always had an edge over Ravenswood students in getting into M-A via the open enrollment process. If a decision is made to equalize enrollment, Las Lomitas students may lose that edge and head to Woodside in a few years.
While siblings of M-A students will be granted the right to attend the same high school, a transition to Woodside won't be easy for some parents, particularly if they graduated from M-A. But in designing a new system, the Sequoia district will have to create boundary rules that apply equally to all middle schools.