EDITOR’S NOTE: The article was updated on Dec. 8, 2019 to include a video of an all-school assembly and related links.
By Judy Ly
Even though it was his first year at Summit Rainier’s campus, freshman Angel Solís quickly found a place in the community. Peers who resonate with Solís will all soon have to say goodbye to Rainier, as the campus is now scheduled to close at the end of the school year.
As part of today’s all-school assembly, Rainier Executive Director Edwin Avarca held a Q&A session after Summit Public Schools Superintendent Anson Jackson addressed upcoming facility changes that were announced via email to Rainier parents last night.
Below is a video of the whole announcement Superintendent Jackson gave at the Nov. 15 assembly:
During this time, Solís shared his perspective on Rainier’s community.
“I’ve been to seven different schools before coming here. And I never found the same faculty, the same support and the same everything that I’ve found here,” he said.
Alongside Superintendent Jackson, CEO Diane Tavenner, Chief of Staff Kelly Garcia, and Chief of Operations Josh Lotstein were also present, but did not speak.
Last night, Superintendent Jackson sent an email to Rainier parents to announce that the campus will be consolidated with its sister campus, Summit Tahoma, starting in the 2020-21 school year.
Superintendent Jackson said the combining of the two schools will secure a campus for more than 20 years. He also emphasized that with the consolidated location, facilities such as a gym, science class, and teachers’ lounges will be available.
After he finished his announcements, Superintendent Jackson and the other members of the SPS Leadership Team proceed to leave the auditorium without responding to any questions or comments. Students responded with loud boos and Executive Director Avarca took over to run the Q&A session.
During the Q&A session, Rainier junior Anthony Villalpando pointed out how juniors won’t have the same experiences with the new resources as other grades will.
“We’re only gonna be there one year, and we’re not going to really experience the full capacity of, like, all the facilities,” Villalpando said.
Concerns over transferring credits also came up during the assembly. For example, physical education is not offered by Summit high schools and it is not a requirement to graduate from those schools. On the other hand, at other public high schools, it typically is. In a follow-up interview, Jaryd Buendia, vice president of the junior class, resonated feeling stressed about credits.
“There’s some requirements stuff we might not be able to meet, given that we’re already juniors and we’re not giving the accessibility of the opportunity to, like, actually complete those in time,” Buendia said.
This will not be the first time Rainier and Tahoma have been in close proximity to each other. Initially, both Rainier and Tahoma campuses were located at National Hispanic University. Rainier’s current campus is located in Eastside San Jose while Tahoma is located in South San Jose.
However, instead of co-locating with Tahoma this time around, Rainier students are now expected to attend the new location as Tahoma students. As a result, in the following school year, Rainier teachers have to reapply for the next school year because their current site is scheduled to close.
Executive Director Avarca said there will be openings across the whole organization for Rainier teachers to apply to if they wish to be relocated to another Summit site.
Rainier junior Abraham Rios expressed his concern that the transition will be hard because of the connections students already have with faculty.
“I know that my mentor is one of the best people I’ve ever met and has had one of the most positive impacts on my life, and, you know, I couldn’t ask for a better one. And I know it’s going to take some time to adjust to Tahoma, you know, if I get a new mentor. That’s going to take some time,” he said.
The decision to consolidate Rainier and Tahoma was made official when the new proposal was agreed upon by the Board of Trustees of the Eastside School High School District last night, Superintendent Jackson stated in his email to parents.
“Again, as I said before, this is not ideal for the current time, but long term which allows us to be consistent,” he said during the assembly.
Rainier history teacher Katina Ballantyne is concerned about difficulties revolving around commute for Rainier students if they transfer to Tahoma.
“I have a really large number of students who walk to school or bike to school or, so on and so forth, so I’m especially worried for those students,” Ms. Ballantyne said.
Rainier history teacher Ricardo Quezada, who’s on his sixth year of teaching at Summit, shared deep concerns about how the consolidation decision was made and its potential impact on students and their families.
“I think it’s easy to make decisions like this when you’re not part of the community. When you’re off in an ivory tower — in a Home Office tower — and it pains me to see all the grief that our students are going through. It pains me to see all the grief that our students are going through. This has been a sanctuary for many of us, and to see it be removed instantaneously without any possibility of recourse is — is honestly very demoralizing, and we’re all about agency, and this, and our school and courage, and this is the complete antithesis of that,” Mr. Quezada said.
Staff Editors Keith Dinh, Deandra Han, Jennifer Rico, Charlie Stattion, Karla Tran and Jasmine Villegas contributed to this report.
Featured Image (at the top of this post): Superintendent Anson Jackson addresses announcements of facility changes to Rainier’s current campus during an assembly. PHOTO CREDIT: Judy Ly