Tahoma’s community reflects on what Rainier’s closure means for their future
By Kainoa Garo, Jae-Lyn Miranda, Henry Pierce and Ian Vu
A month after the news of Summit Public School: Rainier’s closure, confusion continues to circle San Jose’s Summit communities. With the announcement of Rainier merging with Summit Public Schools: Tahoma and KIPP Nagivate’s departure from the campus, students still have unanswered questions about what is to come in the future for Tahoma.
Nonetheless, Tahoma students openly welcome Rainier students and express their opinions on KIPP’s departure, a transition that comes with plans of construction at the Tahoma campus.
How has the Tahoma community reacted?
Students and teachers at Tahoma expressed their hospitality and welcomed new Rainier transfer students for next year. Overall, Tahoma’s opinions on the transition are positive.
Tahoma junior Joshua Rivera, who showed his sympathy for Rainier, said, “I feel really bad for Rainier since they have to lose their campus, but I hope that since we’re taking [in] Rainier that we’re able to, in a way, support them through their loss. And I hope we take this in a positive way going forward.”
With a higher student population, the school will be able to have a higher budget and add improvements to the school. “I feel like it’s better because it’s expanding our school as well as the possibilities in terms of budgeting and just student population,” Tahoma junior Sophia Nguyen said.
Nguyen further opened her understanding of how Rainier students might feel: “For Rainer, it might be a little unexpected and definitely like out of the left-field for them because they thought they would have at least until the end of 2021. And, I feel like a lot of Rainier students are really sad or just really dejected about the school closing so suddenly.”
Students at Tahoma moreover revealed how this will possibly change daily life on campus and the school’s culture. Many are excited about new faces and a larger community. “I’m hoping it will kind of create more interactions on campus,” Tahoma junior Kaitlyn Kelley said. “I feel like everyone already knows each other, so I think it would be interesting to have more people.”
Tahoma junior Sam Leger said, “I feel like there’s going to be a lot of new cultures introduced with the merging of this school, but I think it’ll be for the better.”
However, some students have emphasized their concern about space. Leger said, “I definitely feel, as I said, it’s going to be a little bit crowded. Obviously, we’re going to need space in order to fit everybody.”
But now that KIPP is leaving the campus, the buildings they previously occupied will return to Tahoma. Students have expressed their excitement for the increased space. “I’m very happy that KIPP is moving away because it always felt like when we were sharing the campus it always felt like we got half of what we really should have,” Nguyen said.
What will happen to Rainier students and staff?
As time progresses, more questions arise with students who wonder what will happen to Rainier staff.
Tahoma Executive Director Jonathan Stewart described what will happen to Rainier staff: “We’ve had a process in place at Summit where if there is a teacher who’s been working and their position ends, they’re invited to apply for positions at Summit.”
Tahoma Assistant Director Megan Toyama added, “I’m absolutely not sure. I think we’ll have more information when we have a clear idea of how many students are gonna come over and what grade levels they’re going to be in. I think in January we should have more information. Because I think the application will be open at that point and people will be able to submit and confirm that they do plan to attend.”
The application for Rainier families to apply to Tahoma will allow the Summit directors to get a full picture of how many students will be coming in the next year.
Mr. Stewart said, “On Jan. 17, we will be making offers to the Rainier families who applied for next year. And we’re asking them to accept those offers as soon as they are confident that they will come here. And that tells us the numbers we have to work with and schedule.”
Because Tahoma and Rainier are in two different areas, questions arise on how former Rainier students will receive transportation support.
Mr. Stewart said, “We’ll help them with facilitating carpools and it seems like it’s unlikely we’re able to provide busing.”
What changes may ensue within Tahoma?
The future for Tahoma not only promises the merging of two schools but also new classrooms on campus. In addition, the future for Expeditions brings wider opportunities for students with a bigger choice of courses in the next year.
How will Expeditions be changed next year and the following years?
Expeditions, an electives program for Summit students, allow pupils to explore different courses such as art or human rights. Summit Dean of Expeditions, Monica Hanson, describes what the future of Expeditions will look like for Tahoma.
Ms. Hanson said, “We have more of a budget and we’re able to hire more teachers and able to provide a more robust course catalog for you guys and so hopefully it means that we are expanding the opportunities that we provide for you.”
What will be added to the campus in the plans for construction?
Despite the potential increase in student population, Mr. Stewart stressed there will be adequate space for Rainier students looking to transfer to Tahoma: “We might phase in campus development projects as we accommodate the additional Rainier students, but we welcome them and we will certainly have enough classrooms.”
“One thing that our teachers have said that is important to them is just to be able to have more of their own classrooms and less sharing of classrooms. Also, that will help them by giving them the space to do tutoring and workshops,” Mr. Stewart explained what is being prioritized during construction. “Another thing we will be looking at would be bathroom facilities. And later on the line if we want to create any additional open space or recreational space with what we have available.”
Mr. Stewart also clarified what to expect from construction, “What won’t happen is getting rid of all the portables and building brand new buildings here. That won’t be happening. There won’t be any drastic construction along those lines.”
Ms. Toyama believes that construction will not interfere with student learning or classes because it will most likely happen over the summer. It is not guaranteed they will finish during the summer and construction may happen over time.
Mr. Stewart explained that the planning and administration for this project will be controlled by him, Ms. Toyama, and the Summit Head Office. They plan to receive suggestions from students and teachers as well.
Mr. Stewart also explained where the funds for this project come from. He said that the school has a reserved “rainy day” fund that they have been saving over time in case of any unexpected events occur. They also receive revenue from the state each year.
Mr. Stewart continued to reveal his mission, “The future is to continue to be a school where students can be themselves and at whatever academic level they transfer in that they are challenged, growing, and succeeding for college. That is the mission and that will continue to be the mission.”