Bond measure to create EPA high school

Publication Date: Friday Jul 21, 2000

SCHOOLS: Bond measure to create EPA high school

Ravenswood would use $8 million bond to make room for a charter high school

by Charlie Breitrose

East Palo Alto's dream of having its own high school could become a reality if a proposed school bond measure is passed in November. The last time the city had a high school was 1976, when Ravenswood High School was closed as part of a desegregation move. Most Ravenswood students go to Menlo-Atherton, Woodside or Carlmont high schools.

Ravenswood City School District Superintendent Charlie Mae Knight said the district would be going to the voters of East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park in November to approve a bond measure for $8 million to $10 million to help create a charter high school.

The bond money would be used to enlarge some schools in the district, absorb a growing student population and make room for students who have been going to Cesar Chavez Academy. Chavez, currently a K-8 school, would be turned into a charter high school serving grades 8-12, Knight said.

"We'll have to modify some buildings, and we might go to two-story buildings to accommodate enrollment," Knight said.

This would be the second bond measure in five years. In 1996, Measure U was passed with 87 percent of the vote, giving $6 million to repair school buildings. School board member Bomani Siwatu said phone polls of voters in the district show similar support. The current measure would need a two-thirds majority to pass.

"We are looking at creating a high school, if this is something the community wants," Siwatu said. "It is clear from the initial survey that this is what the community wants."

Chavez, which now holds 700 students, would be big enough to fit all the East Palo Alto students who wanted to attend high school in their hometown, Knight said.

East Palo Alto students must now ride a bus for as long as 45 minutes to get to high school. Ravenswood school board member Lois Frontino said a high school in town could be a great help.

"Students wouldn't have to be bused up to Belmont anymore," said board member Lois Frontino, referring to Carlmont.

Knight said the soonest the high school could be opened would be the fall of 2001.

If the school does become a reality, Knight envisions partnerships with Stanford University to help create a school with high standards. She said the school could become a lab school for Stanford's school of education. Stanford does not send any student teachers to Ravenswood, currently, Knight said.

Siwatu said the focus of the high school has not been decided. He said it could be aimed for all Ravenswood students, a school with a particular specialization or something in conjunction with the Sequoia district.

"This could create some competition," Siwatu said. "Borders are falling down, and schools competing for students could be healthy."

Ravenswood officials had considered applying to become a unified school district, serving grades K-12. Getting approval for a charter high school, however, would be easier, Knight said. The county and the state will have to sign off before the school can become a reality.

"In the meantime we will apply for a planning grant to start developing a proposal for the charter high school," Knight said.

The bond would only account for part of the construction of new school buildings. Knight expects to get money from other sources: matching grants and zero interest loans from the state.

Frontino said the bond would probably cost taxpayers from $25 to $35 a year on their property taxes.

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