Photo courtesy of Nueva School
Ninth grade teacher Michael Peller works with students at the board during a recent lesson on Pascal’s triangle.
An extension of an independent school focused on community, integrated studies, creative arts and social-emotional learning has just begun its first year.
The Nueva School’s new high school is currently inhabiting an old College of San Mateo science facility, but will move into a Bay Meadows space next school year. Classes began Aug. 29.
“The students are designing their ideal high school community,” said Mark Schoeffel, assistant head of the school and founding head of the new high school, called the Upper School. “Students like having the leadership opportunity in shaping and building their community. This is a school that believes in learning by doing; a lab school.”
The Nueva School, which has prekindergarten through eighth grade classes in its Hillsborough location, was founded 45 years ago. The permanent high school location will be part of the city’s Bay Meadows Phase II development at the site of the former race track.
Students at the Upper School have textbooks in some classes as a resource, but every student primarily uses a MacBook Pro. The inaugural Upper School class has 77 students, with approximately half of class rising from Nueva’s eighth grade and the other half from 26 schools across the Bay Area and beyond.
“We have a strong traditional of engaging students,” Schoeffel said. “There’s also a lot of opportunities for long-term projects, research and investigation. A lot of kids know intuitively they want to be talked with not at.”
He notes that schools have begun to reconstruct themselves to match the need for students to develop passions through work. They also host guest speakers, have robotics, theater and musical programs, along with other options.
“It’s allowed for individual development,” Schoeffel said. “It’s about learning by doing and a kind place; kids really interact with each other in meaningful ways. There’s a lot of learning to communicate with others through active listening and there’s a culture of deep respect.”
The school is not the sort of environment where whoever talks the most wins, he said.
“We have a diverse group of kids,” Schoeffel said. “There’s different ways of problem solving and seeing the world.”
The students and families at the school are looking for a different way to do high school, said Lana Guernsey, director of special projects for Nueva. Many of the students are those interested in being part of startups, she said.
“They want a place where they will love learning,” she said. “People drawn to the idea of helping to start something from the ground floor. There’s also a spirit of the inaugural class. It’s a class that makes a powerful bond.”
This type of learning environment should not be unique to Nueva, Schoeffel said.
The Bay Meadows campus will include a facility on approximately 2.75 acres overlooking a 12-acre public park, with flexible classrooms and seminar spaces, performing and fine arts studios, science laboratories and tech shops, an attached athletic center and gym, student and community center, two-level writing and research center and a future theater.
Tuition is $38,000 for this school year, but Nueva awards $1.8 million in award grants in the Lower through Upper schools. This award amount is a figure the school aims for every year, however, that award amount can increase as its student population increases. There were about three and a half times applicants than the number of students who could be accepted. Applicants from outside of the program were asked to write an essay and do a series of interviews.
The Upper School is already accepting applications for next school year’s ninth grade class. The cap for the next class would be about 100 students. The school will eventually be grades nine through 12.
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