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Charter school gets classroom approval
January 29, 2009, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

A high school focusing on Eastern-Asian studies has yet to get charter approval but may have four classrooms to house students this fall after Sequoia High School officials approved a facilities proposal last night.

A proposed 400-student charter school within the Sequoia Union High School District named Everest is still waiting for state approval but has a potential home this fall in East Palo Alto. The Sequoia Board of Trustees last night approved offering four classrooms, one of which will be outfitted for science needs, to house the potential freshman class at 763 Green St. in East Palo Alto. Overall, the district approved a cost not to exceed $4 million to come from bond funds. Everest officials have until March 1 to respond.

Four portable classrooms previously used to house Summit Prep, the school led by Summit Institute which is sponsoring the charter request, would be placed on the currently empty site, according to the proposal. One of the classrooms will be specialized to include water and sinks for science laboratories. These spaces could be used for adult education students in the evenings or on the weekends, according to the proposal.

Trustee Gordon Lewin was happy about the proposed dual use of the location — a starter campus for Everest if approved and a place for adults to attend classes. He hoped it would also draw a more diverse population.

In addition, access to other district facilities will be made available to Everest students.

The proposal will house 100 students — the proposed size of the freshman class. Plans are for the school to grow to capacity over the next four years. Four hundred students could not be housed on the site, explained Jim Lianides, associate superintendent of administrative services. The school would most likely need to be moved after two years, he said.

A charter for Everest was denied twice locally — by Sequoia and by the county Board of Education — before being forwarded to the state Board of Education. Before state officials have a chance to vote, the proposal must be reviewed by the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools, which will hear a recommendation by state Department of Education staff for approval of the school on Tuesday, Feb. 3. In March, the Office of Education will vote on the appeal.

Within the 47-page report, the Department of Education staff applauds the Summit Institute and disagrees with reasons given for local denial.

While waiting for the state vote, Summit Institute officials continue work to locate facilities. California law requires the district in which a charter school is located to provide facilities if requested. The proposal came as a result pending charter approval, Lianides said.

If approved, Everest would be the second school working with the newly established Summit Institute, which also runs Summit Prep in Redwood City. Playing off the location of Mt. Everest, the school would have an Asian theme in literature and history along with the Mandarin language requirement.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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