High Tech High closing its doors 

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.

Foster City’s plans tenuous

The recent announcement that Redwood City charter school High Tech High Bayshore would be closing its doors this summer may not have a direct impact on Foster City’s efforts to build their own charter school, but the future of the new project is still in question.

High Tech High is acting as a consultant for the Foster City High School Foundation, which hopes to build a school on a parcel of city-owned land.

Despite Bayshore’s problems attracting students, foundation President Phyllis Moore said Foster City’s location in the growing area east of U.S. Highway 101 would help it avoid the same fate. As a charter school, it would attract students from throughout the county, she said.

The foundation, which turned in its business plan to the city for review on Jan. 31, is looking for state and local funding sources to provide the $14 million needed for the project.

Moore said there are meetings scheduled in upcoming weeks with three developers bidding for a senior-housing and retail development project on 11 of the 15 city-owned acres where the school also hopes to build.

The meetings will give the developers and foundation a chance to make sure their plans don’t conflict, Community Development Director Richard Marks said.

"I don’t think it would be a weird mix and there could be benefits if we could find some joint uses of space," Moore said.

Moore said she envisions a high school campus that would serve the community by providing college courses and community event space during nonschool hours.



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Beth Winegarner

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