As the younger sister of a graduate of Summit Rainier, a charter school in East San Jose, junior Hailey Bui dreamed of walking across the graduation stage with her classmates next year. Now, she and her classmates are searching elsewhere to finish their high school careers after the abrupt news that the school is shutting down next year.
“I was getting ready to graduate with everyone like this. And now we can’t,” Bui said.
The East Side Union High School District Board of Trustees last week approved major changes to two charter campuses, which includes closing down Rainier and consolidating it with its sister campus, Tahoma.
As a result, 244 of the 313 students currently enrolled at Rainier, which includes 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students, would be displaced in the following school year, based on numbers provided by Rainier administration.
While both Summit schools are under enrolled, the decision to close the school stems from a search for a long-term facility, according to district officials.
East Side Union High School District Board President Pattie Cortese said conversations about the changes began during the last school year.
“Those conversations started last spring and have been taking place over the summer and early fall,” she said. “(The two charter schools are) in the driver’s seat on this one.”
Summit Public Schools superintendent Anson Jackson said in an email that the benefit of consolidation is ensuring the long-term viability of the schools.
“A long-term facility provides permanence and stability — two key components of high-performing schools and students,” Jackson wrote.
Junior Joana Padilla said the Rainier community had become her second family.
“Just the thought of not graduating with people who you’ve gone to school with for three years just really hurts in a way,” she said.
All Rainier faculty could lose their jobs because the campus is closing. According to an email from Jackson and CEO Diane Tavenner, faculty can re-apply for a position at another Summit site, but are not guaranteed a job.
On the other hand, KIPP Navigate High School is trying to expand beyond its current 9th and 10th grades. However, staying co-located with Tahoma at Oak Grove High School causes problems because of limited spacing. The facility changes would relocate the school’s site from Blossom Hill to Rainier’s current facilities in Alum Rock.
The recent shakeup isn’t the first charter school in East San Jose to be shuttered. Last month, Franklin-McKinley School District board members voted to close the Cornerstone Academy Preparatory School, a decision angry parents have vowed to fight.
ESUHSD Superintendent Chris Funk said one less charter school in the district requires less authorization, follow up and oversight needed.
“We have two distinct separate charters on the same campus and they all have athletic teams vying for gym time, field space, now you’re really impacting the school and the students at Oak Grove,” Funk said. “So there’d be less need to field athletic teams.”
Trustee Lan Nguyen said the changes were proposed by the charter schools, not the district. He added that as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the district, he is in favor of the proposed changes. “Therefore, I am likely to support it, unless something else comes up that we don’t know about,” Nguyen said.
Cortese is also in favor of the proposed facility changes.
“I am supportive of the changes, because it’s also a problem that we were trying to address anyway, which is logistical challenges on the Oak Grove site,” Cortese said.
Katina Ballantyne, a Rainier World History teacher, is concerned about how only a limited amount of Rainier students can enroll because of Tahoma’s enrollment cap, despite the automatic acceptance. Under its current charter, Tahoma has capacity for 405 students and currently has 346 students enrolled, according to the administration.
“Summit does not have real plans for all of our students to go to this ‘merging school,’” she said. “I don’t think schools are being merged — I think our school is being shut down.”
Contact Judy Ly at [email protected] or follow @_jujudymedia on Twitter.