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Building sale dooms school
February 22, 2007, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal High Tech High Bayshore sophomore Alexandra Grant reacts to the Sequoia Union High School District decision to buy purchase the school at 890 Broadway in Redwood City.

High Tech High Bayshore students hugged and cried as the Sequoia Union High School District unanimously approved the purchase of the building at 890 Broadway in Redwood City — their home for just over a year.

The decision is likely the nail in the coffin for the school suffering from low enrollment. Parents and students joined together to save High Tech High Bayshore after learning last week the foundation couldn’t afford to buy the $8.6 million building due to low enrollment. Sequoia was already working to buy the facility. Parents and students pleaded with the district to not buy or at least postpone the vote to purchase the facility. The Board of Trustees, on the other hand, thought a delayed decision wouldn’t change the situation.

"It’s not that closing your school is our decision. I don’t think it would matter one bit if we [didn’t buy the school] or postponed the vote. It would just mean someone else would bid on it tomorrow and it would end up as commercial use,” said Trustee Don Gibson.

The High Tech High community hoped the extra time would give them a better chance of staying open. Parents recently launched campaigns to increase enrollment and finances  in hopes of preventing a closure vote by the High Tech High board — a group that controls all seven schools statewide — on Friday, Feb. 23.

"We hope Sequoia will not be part of the ruin of the school. ... We ask that you table the decision for 30 days to determine the future of our campus. ... That way when any decision is made, it can be made with knowledge and participation of all stakeholders,” said parent Roy Salume of Half Moon Bay.

Community member Sheri Morrison emphasized the difference a project-based environment can make for some students.

"We all started this meeting by saying the Pledge of Allegiance; ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ These kids deserve justice,” she said.

Students shared stories of their struggles and success since coming to High Tech High.

"This school worked wonders for me,” said junior Denise Gaytan. "I was a bad kid. It made me open my eyes and pay attention. I had teachers stay after school to help me. It breaks my heart.”

Trustees empathized with the community’s investment in the school, but said the purchase was the only way to insure the building will be used for educational purposes.

"We have to look out for what’s best for our students. We don’t even know, if someone else bought the building, if they would let you stay through the end of the school year,” said Trustee Lorraine Rumley.

Sequoia has agreed to pre-enroll local students into its high schools.

The district has been looking for facilities for Summit Charter School or its adult school though it recently purchased a 1.5-acre church site in Redwood City for $5.9 million. These purchases were made possible using money from the $70 million Measure H bond measure passed in November 2004.

Summit has an agreement to use the 20 portable classrooms, which are on the Sequoia campus, it is currently housed in through 2008, Tavenner said previously. Tavenner hasn’t been approached about using the High Tech High Bayshore building.


Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: letters@smdailyjournal.com. 


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