Charter school has a home of its own

The Sequoia High School District has found a permanent home for one of its charter schools on the site of a local Baptist church and school.

The $5.8 million purchase caps a three-and-a-half-year hunt for a permanent campus for Summit Preparatory High School, a 400-student school chartered by the district, according to Ed LaVigne, business official for the district. Sequoia’s decision to purchase the Redwood Baptist Church site, at 414

Fourth Ave., goes to the district board for final approval Wednesday.

The church, which operates a private school on the property, will have until the end of June 2007 to find a new home, according to LaVigne. Redwood Baptist School gained media attention in 2005 after one of its teachers, Joan Marie Sladky, was sentenced to six months in jail for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.

Church officials did not return calls for comment on the sale Monday, but Sequoia and Summit leaders were pleased by the news.

“We’re really happy that the district is clearly taking steps to fill their commitment to us,” said Diane Tavenner, executive director of the three-year-old charter school.

Summit launched in Redwood City in 2003 under a charter from the Summerville Union High School District in Tuolumne County. In 2006, Sequoia adopted the school’s charter and relocated Summit from its campus in downtown Redwood City to a cluster of portable buildings on the Sequoia High School campus after California law began requiring schools like Summit to obtain charters in the cities where they operate.

“We’re excited that it was available,” LaVigne said. “We’re thanking our good fortune.”

In addition to Summit, the new facility will also house the district’s adult-school program, according to Superintendent Pat Gemma.

Sequoia officials looked at nearly a dozen sites, including the industrial site at 890 Broadway that now houses the district’s other charter, High Tech High Bayshore, according to LaVigne.

Site and engineering studies will need to be performed on the church buildings and some construction will be required before Summit can move in.

Although Tavenner is glad the school will remain in Redwood City, she hopes students will be able to adjust to the new site, which is not as close to public transit as its current and prior campuses have been.

“That’s important to our students, but I’m sure we can work to find a plan,” Tavenner said.

Summit has requested a five-year extension of its charter with the Sequoia district, but officials have said they cannot make a decision until after the end of the 2006-07 school year.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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