AltSchool parents find partners to save school | News | Palo Alto Online |


AltSchool parents find partners to save school

Palo Alto private school to open with new leadership this fall

A group of parents whose children attend the soon-to-close AltSchool in Palo Alto are merging with another local private school to maintain what they describe as a much-needed alternative education option in the area.

AltSchool, which former Google executive Max Ventilla founded in San Francisco in 2013, announced in November that its K-8 Palo Alto campus on Emerson Street would close at the end of the school year. The school, which emphasizes personalized learning through technology, opened at 930 Emerson St. in the fall of 2015.

Local parents passionate about the startup's educational philosophy quickly rallied to keep the school's doors open. They formed a working group and one parent, Palo Alto resident JingJing Xu, traveled to China to find financial backers.

They ultimately partnered with ETU School, an international bilingual school based in Beijing. Yinuo Li, who was one of AltSchool Palo Alto's founding parents, opened the school in 2016 and has agreed to fund a new school, Xu said. It will be part of the Global ETU School network.

With money in hand, all the parents needed was an appropriately zoned physical space in Palo Alto. They found a willing partner in Imagination School, a small K-8 private school housed at Cubberley Community Center on Middlefield Road. The school first opened in 2014 in the co-founder's living room with four students.

This fall, a new entity called the Imagination Lab School will open with teachers and families from both AltSchool and the Imagination School. AltSchool Palo Alto Head of School Chris Bezsylko will lead the Imagination Lab School. Xu will chair a new board of trustees.

Gigi Carunungan, co-founder and chief education officer of Imagination School, said the decision to partner with the AltSchool parents and faculty was "made in the interest of making the school stronger and more sustainable."

"Families of both communities understand that the merger was done in the interest of offering a more sustainable school for their children," she said.

Twelve students are currently enrolled at Imagination School and 62 at AltSchool Palo Alto.

The two schools have similar philosophies, which will continue at the Imagination Lab School: whole-child, personalized learning through project-based activities and a focus on social impact. The Imagination Lab School will also offer outdoor education, arts, world language electives and mindfulness. Local students and teachers will visit Beijing through an annual exchange program with ETU School, Xu said.

Technology played a central role at AltSchool, where teachers tested out the startup's software in their classrooms. This was more for teachers' efficiency than for student learning, Xu said. The Imagination Lab School is considering adopting ETU School's management platform to serve that purpose.

Xu said they hope to enroll about 24 to 36 students this fall. Ten are enrolled so far. They plan to grow to 150 students over the next three to five years.

Tuition for the 2018-19 school year is $30,000. Families who cannot afford the full tuition can apply for indexed tuition.

The Imagination Lab School is currently accepting applications for transitional kindergarten through sixth grade for the 2018-19 school year. The school is hosting information sessions on May 19 and June 9. For more information, go to

A new pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade school, Guidepost Montessori, will open at the Altschool space on Emerson Street. Guidepost is run by Higher Ground Education, a California organization that aims to expand Montessori education nationwide.


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Like this comment
Posted by Emerson building
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

Wonder what happens to the Emerson building, Alt has done a nice job developing that space into a small school campus.

2 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of Professorville
on May 15, 2018 at 11:11 am

Guidepost Montessori is opening in the Emerson space: Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2018 at 1:26 pm

Sheri is a registered user.

According to the article, Imagination Lab School (housed at the Cubberley Community Center) hopes to “enroll about 24 to 36 students this fall. Ten are enrolled so far. They plan to grow to 150 students over the next three to five years. Tuition for the 2018-19 school year is $30,000.”

At last night’s council meeting about granting First Baptist Church a conditional use permit to operate as a “community center”, people complained about it being hard to find community meeting spaces.

Is providing space for a private school that charges $30K a year an appropriate use of a community center?

7 people like this
Posted by Linda Wang
a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 15, 2018 at 11:32 pm

My daughter is a current 4th grader in the ALTSchool Palo Alto and she joined in fall 2017. She has grown so much this year both academically and social emotionally. Everyday she couldn't wait to go to school, and in home she couldn't stop talking about school projects/activities. She loves walking around the community and learning things from real life experience. Coming from public school, I was worried about the small school size; to my surprise, my daughter has developed much deeper friendship with all her classmates.

I was devastated when heard the school closing last November, and is so excited to see imagination lab school coming out of this unfortunate event. Chris and his team are truly phenomenal educators who always research and look for ways to learn and improve. Their curriculums are authentic, fun and innovative. No doubt, Imagination lab school will be a great school continue serving the local community.

2 people like this
Posted by Palpatine
a resident of Professorville
on May 16, 2018 at 7:56 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 9:29 pm

As a parent who has dealt with some of these progressive Nueva wannabe schools, I wish the parents good luck with this. Parents who want this kind of education are in a bind and easily exploited. I hope the Chinese partner can reign in any bad actors. And btw, Synapse School used to be housed at the Baptist Church in Old Palo Alto - before Gigi Carunungan was replaced, so she knows the place already.

3 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 17, 2018 at 5:02 pm

I don't get why people are trying to conflate these schools with the First Baptist Church issue, and import all that negative energy. Or bring in new negativity about "bad actors".

People are trying to start two new schools here. Thank you for your support. If you're not in favor of schools, or private schools, or their tuition, or are concerned about how Cubberly space is allocated, could you state that directly, and why this affects you.

Like this comment
Posted by PA parents
a resident of Community Center
on May 20, 2018 at 4:27 am

My daughter has been in Altschool with principal Chris and his teachers, they're amazing. As parent we're extremely happy this team of faculty will continue and provide excellent education to kids who need it.

Each kid is different, we need more school like this Imagination lab school to provide best fit for the families. Way to go!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Open Mind School
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2018 at 11:06 am

For those parents who are still in need of a program for their children, consider Open Mind School! It is a nonprofit, inclusive, research lab school in Menlo Park that has similar philosophies to the schools described above. We offer services for PreK to 12th grade and focus on integrating technology, community learning, and making sure kids are invloved in their own education to ensure they get the most out of what they are learning. Check us out on facebook , by call/texting 6502603805, or at!

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