REDWOOD CITY — Despite their tears and emotional pleas, High Tech High Bayshore parents and students, upset with the likely closure of their school, were unable to convince the Sequoia Union High School District board to postpone its vote on purchasing the property that is the charter school's campus.

The board unanimously agreed Wednesday night to buy the building at 890 Broadway in Redwood City, worth about $8.6 million, to use for educational programs in the district.

The High Tech High Bayshore parents and students, who found out last week that their school may close for financial reasons, tried to sway the Sequoia board to hold off on its vote so they would have more time to save the school.

"We are asking that this board not be a part of the effort to destroy our school," said Roy Salume, whose son is a sophomore.

But Sequoia trustees told the crowd, which overflowed the board room, that others are interested in buying the property, even if the district turned it down.

"It's not us that's closing your school," Trustee Don Gibson said to the audience holding signs reading, "Save Our School." "We're talking about buying a piece of real estate."

On the other hand, the board received smiles from the Summit Preparatory High School community, another Redwood City charter, when it agreed to renew the school's charter for five years.


Advertisement

Furthermore, it's possible High Tech High Bayshore's campus may become Summit's new home because Sequoia is required by state law to provide the school with facilities.

High Tech High Bayshore, sponsored by the state, could have taken advantage of this law by asking Sequoia for facilities, but never did. The High Tech High corporation, based in San Diego, typically provides the housing for its schools.

The High Tech High Bayshore Foundation will decide Friday if it's viable to keep the charter open after this school year.

When the school opened in September 2005, a philanthropist affiliated with the High Tech High company agreed to purchase the building for the charter, under an agreement that the school would buy the building from him by this year. But in order to do this, the school would need at least 420 students at this point to raise enough money to purchase the building and keep the school running, according to High Tech High leaders. Currently, it has only about 230 students and receives about $6,800 per student in public funding.

After the holidays, High Tech High administrators discovered the school was not bringing in enough enrollment to keep the school going financially or to purchase the campus.

When High Tech High officials realized the problem, they approached Sequoia Union High School District about purchasing the building.

A large group of the charter school's parents have said they may file a lawsuit on the grounds that when they enrolled their kids in the school, they were led to believe that it would be open for at least five years and that the building was already owned by the High Tech High company. They also are looking into the possibility of filing an injunction to stop Sequoia's purchase of the building.

The school's project-based learning model has won praise from many who say it helps students excel to a greater degree than they would in traditional schools. Some parents say it's especially beneficial for struggling students.

For junior Denise Gayton, 17, the school made her care about her education.

"This school has done wonders for me," she said. "Before I came here, I was a bad kid. Now I'm thinking about college."

Staff writer T.S. Mills-Faraudo covers education. She can be reached at (650)348-4338 or tmills@sanmateocountytimes.com.