Despite initial concerns that "could have justified denial" of KIPP Bay Area Public School's request to open a new charter high school, the Sequoia Union High School board of trustees ultimately gave the green light for the campus to open on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, district staff recommended conditional rather than full approval of KIPP's petition, citing concerns including "overinflated" enrollment projections and uncertainty about the school's location. Board members had also expressed reservations about the potential threat a charter high school could pose to the health of district schools. KIPP ultimately agreed to postpone the board's vote in order to reach agreement on several conditions.
District staff, along with attorneys, evaluated additional information provided by KIPP and met with the charter organization's representatives several times, according to a staff report. KIPP "addressed primary concerns expressed by district administration and trustees that could have justified denial by providing additional information and making revisions to the charter petition," the report states.
On Wednesday night, the school board unanimously approved KIPP Peninsula High School's petition with a negotiated addendum and memorandum of understanding. The school is expected to be located at 1039 Garden St. in East Palo Alto, the current site of Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, according to KIPP's petition documents. KIPP said it's currently in negotiations with Aspire to co-locate for the 2020-21 school year at the Garden Street site.
"We recognize that a public charter organization and a traditional district working together to open a new school is easier said than done, and I want to thank the district staff and board for engaging with us throughout the chartering process," Joel Portillo, the future principal of the high school, said in a statement. "Ultimately, we all have the same goal: for students to be ready to live lives full of choice and opportunity when they graduate from our high schools."
The tuition-free charter school expects to enroll 180 freshmen in its first year and grow by grade level to full enrollment, about 650 students, in the 2024-25 school year. KIPP is "confident we can meet these enrollment targets based on parent demand." The charter school will be open to both students enrolled at KIPP and Sequoia Union schools, though KIPP students and their siblings will be given preference in the case of a lottery drawing.
KIPP leadership have said they're committed to partnering with Sequoia, including through a potential high school match program that would help both charter and noncharter eighth graders choose a local high school or an East Palo Alto-wide school music program.
The petition will run from July 2020 through June 2025.