By Kyle Fujisaka and Judy Ly
As students finish their school year online, Rainier students count down the days before their school closes permanently.
Last fall, SPS administration announced Rainier will permanently close on the last day of school, leaving 244 of the 313 students displaced.
133 of those students plan to enroll at the nearest Summit Public Schools site, located in South San Jose: Summit Tahoma.
One Rainier teacher, Isela Mosqueira, will transfer with them. She credits her final decision to a desire to support her junior mentees. At SPS, every student is put into a small group, with a mentor, since the year they join.
“I signed up for this job to be able to see them all the way through graduation,” Ms. Mosqueira said. “A lot of them are going to be going into Tahoma.”
In addition to the returning students, Tahoma Executive Director Jonathan Stewart said the school expects an estimated incoming 31 sophomores, 48 juniors, and 54 seniors from Rainier. The new freshmen class makes up the remaining 85 students. Tahoma is now preparing to hold the largest number of students in its nine-year history. In total, the Tahoma administration anticipates around 450 students for the 2020-21 school year, 245 of which will be returning Tahoma students.
For the last two years, Tahoma has been sharing campus space with KIPP Navigate. This charter will occupy Rainier’s current facilities, starting next school year.
Due to the recovery of the previously-occupied space, Tahoma’s campus space would nearly double from 13 classrooms to 24 classrooms. According to Mr. Stewart, Tahoma aims to create a dedicated food serving room and increase the number of restrooms and science rooms.
He elaborated that the administration would make the final decision to restructure portables, once they’re confident where new plumbing is going.
Tahoma Assistant Director Megan Toyama anticipates construction to be spread out through the following years.
“We’re seeing the first phase of just getting classrooms ready to be done by the start of the school year,” Ms. Toyama said. “The second phase of potentially shifting portables around would have to come in the future years.”
Of the Rainier transfers, there are larger numbers in the rising junior and senior class.
Tahoma’s administration plans to add one mentor group to the junior and senior class to accommodate the new students.
The new mentor groups will consist of only Rainier students. Ms. Mosqueira will mentor the senior transfers. Tahoma math teacher Devonna Alatorre will mentor the junior transfers.
Ms. Alatorre is optimistic towards hosting the new mentor group.
“It’s more of just having these hopes and goals that they feel comfortable and they feel safe insisting at Tahoma,” she said. “It’s just a matter of taking time to really give them the space that they deserve here.”
Dina Le, current AP English Language teacher and future Tahoma Dean of Student Culture and Instruction, explains this integration aims to foster unity in Rainier transfers.
“No Tahoma student can empathize with them on that regard — on what it’s like to have a school close and what it means to have to leave your mentor and to travel to Tahoma — that’s their own different struggle in journey,” Ms. Le said.
However, due to limited spacing per mentor group, not every Rainier transfer can be in an all-Rainier mentor group.
“They will be dispersed into other mentor groups,” Ms. Alatorre said.
Incoming senior Alfredo ‘AJ’ Montalvo is excited about having a former Rainier teacher be his mentor.
“My main concern was just who my mentor was going to be,” he said. “It’d be easier for us to talk to them and be more open already.”
In a follow-up email, Mr. Stewart said Tahoma administration is working with Rainier mentors to decide which students go where.
“We’ve gathered input from the Rainier mentors to help make placements – whether it’s in a mentor group of all Rainier mentees, or in a group with Tahoma mentees,” he wrote.
Ms. Le elaborated on their vision to integrate transfers through core subject classes.
“They’ll be sharing classes with everyone. Tahoma will still feel like one community,” she said.
Ms. Le also said the school is considering adding another period to maintain a smaller classroom size.
Rainier students also have an option of opting into a Tahoma mentor group, according to Ms. Toyama. She said these are the current plans in place.
“It’s still evolving, and we’re definitely open to input from students and from mentors,” said Ms. Toyama.
Gabriela Esquivel, Tahoma junior class president, is excited for the expanded student size.
“It’s going to make it seem like a real high school because I know a lot of Summit kids feel like it’s not a real high school, it’s just like a small charter school,” she said.