There are a couple ironic plot twists at work when it comes to the future of a parcel of land the San Diego Unified school board sold off this week to HTH Learning, the private nonprofit that oversees the High Tech High charter schools.
Just because High Tech is buying former Hale Junior High School site in Clairemont for $22.4 million doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be able to open a school there. The possibility exists that San Diego Unified – the entity selling the property – could refuse to approve the buyer’s proposed use of the property. HTH will have to get board approval before operating a charter school on the site.
The sale also blurs the picture for the district’s plan to put a quality school in every neighborhood – Clairemont currently has droves of families opting out of their neighborhood schools and driving all over town to better ones. If High Tech High opens a school on the site, it – and not a school operated by the district – would be the neighborhood’s quality school.
The 19-acre property is located on Mt. Alifan Drive in Clairemont and has been leased since 1985 to Horizon Christian Fellowship, which operates a private school on the site and pays the district $1.25 million a year for the lease.
HTH Learning operates six charter schools in the San Diego Unified School District and five others throughout the county. It presented a plan at the Dec. 3 board meeting to open another elementary school, HTe Charter, on the Liberty Station campus. That new school, if approved by the board, would open in fall 2015.
The first High Tech school opened in 2000. HTH Learning currently operates two middle schools, three high schools and Explorer Elementary School on the Liberty Station campus. Representatives from HTH Learning could not be reached for comment on the pending sale of the Hale site.
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High Tech High has perverted the concept of a career academy. The original idea for career academies was to help low achieving youngsters with employment skills and this school reform has proven to substantially reduce the high school dropout rate. This is a great school reform initiative that should be expanded in city schools. HTH, however, has been created as an elitist school only for the brightest kids. These kids would have done equally well at their home school and have no need for an elite school.
James C. Wilson, Ed.D.
Author, Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon and Kindle.
James - I need clarification on a few things you note here:
1. If HTH has been created as an elitist school only for the brightest, how does that statistically align with the lottery that drives enrollment? Is there somehow a hanging chad, loaded dice or some other indicator on the bouncing lottery balls and enrollment forms that allows for the culling out of the NOT best and brightest? And, how do they tell amidst the thousands of applicants for very limited number of spaces? GPA? Tests?
2. Your idea that kids would do equally as well at their home school and therefore have no need for an elite school seems counterintuitive. How can those with exceptional skills and high levels of learning be challenged and progress at their high level of learning if the bulk of the class in their "home" school" is not at those levels? From what I have seen, best and brightest are actually held back in their development and progress if not challenged. I get this from teachers all the time. The difficulty they have in helping and challenging those best and brightest that are in the minority in their classes all the while doing what needs to be done to serve all the others in their class inclusive of the mainstreaming of many IEP's.
3. Finally - what's the problem with choice for parents? Why shouldn't I have the choice to send my kid(s) to a public school, elitist (at least in your opinion) or not, that I believe will provide for their best interests and learning abilities, from GATE, to IEP, to STEAM, to (heavens) sports? Are you saying that if you had a MENSA child and the opportunity to send them to a public "elitist" school that will provide them growth and challenges to progress and educational opportunities not available elsewhere that you would elect to send them to your home school because they would do "equally as well"? Why do we want "equally as well?" Don't we want every child to have the opportunity to learn and perform at the highest level of their abilities?
Apparently there were no concerns for decades during the time thousands of teens including me attended Hale Junior High School on top of that pipeline. The bigger issue is traffic. It was a concern when Horizon first leased the property. Now it won't be restricted mostly to Sundays, but all week long. The site is one block south of Balboa and Genesee, across the street from the same residential community that successfully stopped an In-N-Out Burger being built in the area due to... yep, traffic, as well as noise.
It should be noted that High Tech High has quite a bit of experience dealing with that jet fuel pipeline… It runs parallel to Rosecrans, through the property where the building housing HTHMA, HTMMA and Explorer Elementary is located, feet away from the elementary school's playground.
I'd worry more about the jets than the pipeline for their fuel. We've had commercial and military aircraft falling from the sky killing men, women and children, even babies, and we still have jets flying over populated area's.
The JP5 in that line is basically kerosene, dangerous in quantity but not hugely so, it's equivalent is sitting on store shelves in many stores and it has low toxicity and a fairly high flash point.