A controversial Daly City charter school has been fighting with the Jefferson Union High School District over where it should be located, but a spokeswoman for the school says the two sides appear close to reaching an agreement.
The Summit Shasta charter school is part of the Summit Public Schools organization, a family of charter schools in the Bay Area and Washington state whose donor list reportedly includes Silicon Valley venture capitalists, the Walton Family Foundation and Hewlett-Packard CEO and former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
Since forming in 2013, Summit Shasta has rented the second floor of a small office building at 350 90th St., which is owned by Daly City. However, the school’s two-year lease is coming to an end. And while Summit and district officials don’t agree on much, they do seem to agree that the building, which lacks some amenities, was never a good match for the school.
California law requires school boards to provide classroom space to charter schools that form in their districts. Jefferson Union offered to relocate Summit Shasta to the Terra Nova High School campus in Pacifica, but the charter school’s officials claim commuting to Pacifica would be a hardship for students.
Summit Shasta expressed a strong preference for the former Serramonte High School campus at 699 Serramonte Blvd. in Daly City, which also serves as Jefferson Union’s headquarters. The district’s refusal to move Summit Shasta into that facility led to the charter school invoking its right to have the matter discussed in mediation.
Jefferson Union Superintendent Thomas Minshew said 699 Serramonte Blvd. is already full, because in addition to district administrative offices, it houses an adult school, a therapeutic day school for high school students with emotional issues and a school for students with developmental disabilities.
The campus also has several paying tenants, Minshew said. He added that the district is not wealthy and needs the $400,000 annual rent those tenants collectively pay.
Minshew said Summit Shasta requested a facility with 18 classrooms, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, a teacher break room and enough space to accommodate a growing student population. And because the surplus space at Terra Nova High School meets all those needs, Minshew said the district is satisfying its legal obligation by offering it to Summit Shasta.
Summit Shasta principal Caitlyn Herman said relocating the school to Pacifica would force some students to add an extra hour to both directions of their daily bus commute.
But Minshew countered that Terra Nova already has about 200 students from Daly City who seem happy to make that journey.
Terra Nova instructor Alyssa Jenkins said some Summit Shasta supporters have claimed the commute to her school from Daly City can be as long as two hours each way, but she disagrees. “Terra Nova is a 15-minute drive from Daly City,” Jenkins said. “They’re saying it takes two hours to get here? Maybe if they’re walking.”
Jenkins said Summit Shasta has been “poised” to sue the school district, but Minshew said confidentiality rules prevented him from commenting on whether the charter school had threatened a lawsuit.
Summit Shasta spokeswoman Melissa Sillin said the school had been “weighing all of its legal options,” but that progress has recently been made in the mediation process. While Sillin could not reveal specific details, she said the two sides seem closer to avoiding a stalemate and would probably announce an agreement within the next few weeks.