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San Francisco Bay Area community news

High Tech High closing its doors

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
February 16, 2007

High Tech High Bayshore students and parents learned this week that the charter school is shutting down at the end of the 2006-07 school year.

Citing low enrollment and losses of $500,000 to $600,000 a year, school officials told students Wednesday that the school would close, High Tech High CEO Larry Rosenstock said Thursday.

“It was a total shock,” said Briane Feddock, a junior at the school. “I love it here. It’s going to be a blow for us to have to go to normal schools and find out what they’re like.”

Students said the school’s small size fostered a cooperative, familial environment that they will miss.

“The faculty gives 100 percent motivation to the students,” said Rodrigo Molina, whose daughter is a sophomore at the school. “I don’t think they have that kind of environment at other schools. It’s sad and disappointing to us all.”

The Sequoia High School District, which has been notified of the closure, is already in negotiations to purchase High Tech High Bayshore’s building at 890 Broadway, according to Superintendent Pat Gemma. If the district board approves the buyout at its Feb. 21 meeting, the district will consider using the property to house Summit Preparatory High School, the district’s other charter high school, Gemma said.

High Tech High Bayshore moved into the former warehouse in the fall of 2005, hoping to attract 400 students per year. However, enrollment has remained between 240 and 250 students — and the school needs 330 to break even, according to Rosenstock.

“We hoped if we found a facility — and this is a beautiful facility — we’d be able to draw more students. And that wasn’t the case,” Rosenstock said.

School and district officials are working to provide spaces for any students who want to transfer to Sequoia’s four high schools, and Sequoia plans to interview the charter school’s staff for possible hiring, according to Rosenstock.

High Tech High Bayshore started as San Carlos High School in 2003 with a charter from the San Carlos School District, an elementary-school district. The San Mateo County Office of Education granted the school a one-year charter in 2005 when changes in state law made that arrangement obsolete.

The San Diego-based High Tech High chain, which took over the school in 2004, won a statewide charter in 2005, the first school to do so.

Statewide, charter schools remain a booming business, with 618 across California and another 60 to 80 being added each year, according to Gary Larson, communications director for the California Charter Schools Association. Roughly 4 percent of charter schools fail for a variety of reasons, but those with the most success are operating in districts where the public schools perform poorly on assessments, Larson said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

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Written by Beth Winegarner

February 16, 2007 at 10:40 PM

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