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 imagination-school.org.
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.