East Palo Alto charter school proposed

Architects of an ambitious plan to establish a new college-prep charter high school in East Palo Alto will learn the fate of their proposal this week.

Aspire, an Oakland-based charter-school group that operates eight schools in the Bay Area and more throughout California, is asking the Sequoia High School District to adopt its charter for a new high school. If approved, the high school would serve children in East Palo Alto, including students in East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, Aspire’s K-8 charter school, said Don Shalvey, the group’s CEO.

The Sequoia High School District will vote on Aspire’s charter request Wednesday. While district Superintendent Pat Gemma said the charter school’s academic plan is acceptable, the district could only house the high school in Redwood City, though the school’s leaders hope to remain in East Palo Alto.

“We know about 80 percent of our kids have an interest in coming to this school, and we don’t think there is a glut of choices in East Palo Alto,” Shalvey said, referring to a private college prep school and a Stanford-run charter high school, also under Sequoia’s jurisdiction, already operating in the area.

Aspire sought a charter for a K-12 school from the Ravenswood School District in 2006, and was denied, partly because the district doesn’t operate any high schools. Ravenswood recommended Aspirepetition the Sequoia High School District to adopt their high school.

Currently, Phoenix teaches roughly 60 students who would attend a new high school, though Aspire hopes to expand to 150 students by fall of 2008, and eventually to 300 or 400 students, said Ed Lavigne, chief business official for the district. Adopting the high school’s charter would cost the district nearly $1 million if the school enrolls 150 kids, he added.

In October, Sequoia spent $1.65 million on property for an East Palo Alto charter high school operated by Stanford. The district is banking on a bond measure this February to fund construction of a new campus. Sequoia also charters Summit Prep High School in Redwood City.

If approved, Aspire has secured land for its new high school on Bay Road next to Phoenix Academy, and would run a capital campaign to raise money to build a campus, Shalvey said.

“We think it’s difficult but doable,” Shalvey said.

The Sequoia High School District board meets Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the district office, located at 480 James Ave., Redwood City.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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