By Ellen Hu and Judy Ly
Yesterday, Summit Public School (SPS) Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution to close Rainier, a school site located in East Side San Jose. This decision marks the first school Summit Public Schools has ever closed.
On Jan. 16, 2020, the special board meeting took place at SPS headquarters in Redwood City. The meeting’s adjusted agenda related to Rainier’s closure was announced only the day before.
Through a video call of the board meeting from her campus, Rainier junior president Angelica Cortes expressed her frustration on how late the announcement of the logistics of the meeting were.
“I want to complain about how last minute this was, and I think this was done strategically in order for us to not be in person over there,” Cortes said during public comment.
In Rainer’s current charter, the closure protocol states the Board of SPS need to take official action and document the resolution. While this protocol was completed yesterday, SPS administration announced Rainier’s closure to its community back in November.
Displaced students would have the option to transfer to Tahoma, a school site in South San Jose.
The agenda items also included Tahoma’s facilities use agreement. SPS administration previously said Rainier’s remaining budget will be used to improve Tahoma’s facilities beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
However, when the meeting started, the Board announced the removal of Tahoma’s facility use agreement from the agenda.
Here is a story map of the campuses’ locations:
The concerns about transportation options for students who would like to transfer to Tahoma are still prominent.
Last board meeting, Rainier Executive Director Edwin Avarca spoke about the transportation needs of students who want to go to Tahoma. There, he invited board members to talk with him about possible busing options. However, no one has reached out to him yet.
Mr. Avarca also said there have been suggestions for students to get Clipper cards, a Bay Area public transit payment card, as a means for transportation.
“That’s actually a little offensive,” he said. “Logistically, for many of our families, it will be very difficult for them to get to Tahoma if they really want to attend.”
For similar reasons, Rainier Dean of Operations Lupe Trujillo is also an advocate for transportation options. But her proposal for transportation has been pushed back by SPS administration who referenced potential financial issues.
She reached out to charter schools in San Jose who currently provide busing for their students. Ms. Lupe found that Downtown College Prep (DCP) Alum Rock High School buses a similar number of students that Rainier might need for their displaced students.
After contacting the organization partnered with DCP, she wasn’t able to get an exact number at the time of the meeting. However, based on the information she does know, Ms. Lupe estimates busing will cost around $10,000 a month with a month-to-month contract.
“I think for a 10-month school year, would be about $100,000. I know personally, parents have come up to me and said they’d be willing to contribute something to that,” Ms. Lupe said in public comment.
In a previous article, Ms. Lupe has said Rainier has saved up between $500,000 and $550,000 over the years.
Outside of the board meeting, the worries around a guaranteed spot at Tahoma have continued. The Tahoma charter states the school’s enrollment cap is at 405. SPS CEO Diane Tavenner disputed the claim last board meeting when she said, “There is space for all of the Rainier students to enroll at Tahoma.”
Tahoma Executive Director Jonathan Stewart sent an email to Rainier families who early-enrolled their students to Tahoma for the following school year. In the email, he wrote that the enrollment cap will not be an issue.
“Does Tahoma have an enrollment cap of 405 students? No, that’s a misunderstanding. That number refers to an enrollment plan through the current school year, not a cap,” Mr. Stewart wrote. “We are able to accept additional students these next few years so we can accomodate Rainier students.”
But the board meeting packet outlines a different plan: “Unless SPS: Tahoma receives a greater number of applications than there are spaces for students, in which case lottery procedures would be implemented in accordance with the Education Code.”
Ms. Lupe is adamant that SPS can do more to support displaced students who want to go to Tahoma.
“We do out of the box thinking. We ‘MacGyver’ stuff all the time,” she said. “I’m just asking that we do that for these students and just follow through on the promises that we made to them when we opened these schools.”
Featured image at the top of page:
Rainier students gather in a video call room to hear the Summit Public Schools Board of Directors talk about Rainier’s closure. PHOTO CREDIT: Van Tran