Summit Prep charter extended 

While one local charter school is shutting its doors after low enrollment and revenues forced the sale of its campus, another is flourishing.

Summit Preparatory Charter High School’s bid for a five-year charter earned unanimous approval from the Sequoia High School District Board Wednesday after a four-month struggle that nearly led to Summit suing the district. Summit, formerly chartered in Tuolomne County, received a two-year charter from the district last May and requested the extension in October to ensure long-term education for its 360 students.

At the same time, High Tech High Bayshore — another charter high school operating within the Sequoia district — now faces closure after failing to recruit more than 240 students, fewer than it needed to break even. The Sequoia district is purchasing Bayshore’s campus at 890 Broadway for $8.6 million.

"High Tech High Bayshore had to overcome some of the initial failings of the management of the original school, San Carlos High School, while Summit has had a continuous governance process," Sequoia district Superintendent Pat Gemma said. Meanwhile, more than a third of Bayshore’s students live outside district boundaries, compared with 14 percent of Summit’s students.

"Maybe the district is oversaturated with students who would choose a charter school," Gemma said. Sequoia also oversees the high school students enrolled at Stanford Charter School in East Palo Alto.

High Tech High Bayshore isn’t the first charter school under Sequoia’s purview to go belly-up. Aurora High School folded in 2004, also due to chronically low enrollment, according to Ed LaVigne, chief business official for the district.

As part of its charter agreement with Sequoia, Summit will be required to show that it enrolls and recruits students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, in similar proportion to the student population of the parent district. In addition, Summit is not allowed to have more than 15 percent of its students come from "founding families" who have helped foster the school since its 2003 inception.

Summit director Diane Tavenner could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Mike Radoye, head of the Sequoia District Teachers Association, said the policy runs the risk of prohibiting some students from enrolling in Summit’s program.

"The Founding Families program violates the duty of public schools to open themselves to all students and offer a nondiscriminatory admissions process," Radoye said.

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