Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Students at Compass High School work with a teacher, while another student writes on his iPad.
Compass High School, a Redwood City school for students with mild to moderate learning differences launched in August 2013 is opening a new, bigger facility in San Mateo during the 2014-15 school year.
The private school, currently located at Twin Dolphins Drive in Redwood Shores and has nine students, entered into a lease agreement on a 7,100-square-foot building at 2040 Pioneer Court near City Hall and the move-in date is set for June. The goal is to offer a supportive environment to students with challenges from traditional learning disabilities to those who have high-functioning autism. The curriculum offered includes a college preparatory program and also integrated services such as speech therapy and support for students as well as their families. Currently, there are two 10th-graders, the rest are ninth-graders and there are two full-time teachers.
“We planned to be here for a year and there’s been a big effort to find a suitable space for the school, so we can grow,” said Executive Director Rachel Wylde.
Wylde has been a school principal for 20 years and spent a year and a half on research and development of the school. She added the new space provides the right amount of space and light to provide a warm and welcoming home for our students. The new building will be used to house classrooms, as well as rooms for special programs, such as the six classes in the Compass Essential Skills Program taught by specialists. The school has a few offices it will be subletting to education professionals since there will be extra space in the building.
Wylde is no stranger to working at schools focused on catering to students with learning differences — this is her fourth. She is modeling Compass after Oakland’s Bay Hill High School, which she founded in 2007. That school now has 80 students. While in the initial startup phase — which will be completed in the next three years — Compass wants to grow to 40 students. After that, staff would like to have between 50 and 100 students, depending on the need for its services.
“We focus on the most essential content,” Wylde said. “Students can go at their own pace. People who chose this school want a more balanced life. We focus on social skills, organization and deconstructing the one-size-fits-all model.”
Students are on a block schedule, taking three 90-minute classes a day. Wylde said the new building will allow the school to add science labs and art classes for the students. The Elks Club, located next to the new San Mateo location, may be used for physical education classes. Students at the school currently do yoga, fencing, dancing, outdoor cardio, trampoline jumping and other exercises as part of the physical education program.
“We have seen a huge amount of interest in Compass since we opened the doors in August 2013,” Kim Garlinghouse, chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “We view leasing this building as just one more way to better serve our community and prepare our students for college or vocational programs. Our new facility is centrally located on the Peninsula and close to public transportation so it can benefit students from San Jose to San Francisco.”
Funding is something the administration is working on and as a nonprofit that means it can’t receive venture capital funding. Wylde’s dream is to find an angel donator. The school does have several grants and has raised about $500,000. With tuition at $32,000 per year, the administration is applying to get certified as a nonpublic school by the California Department of Education so students can get placed at the school. Tuition would be paid for the students by the public school. Some students do currently receive financial aid.
“All the schools I’ve worked with in the past have had this,” Wylde said.
What’s the most rewarding thing for Wylde about her job?
“The students,” she said. “Each of them has these hidden strengths and talents. I like the planning/startup too; it’s creative work to run a startup/school.”
Students who are a good fit for the school are often eager to learn and innocent in some way, Wylde said.
“We want to continue that really positive culture,” she said.
The school is doing year-round enrollment and the school welcomes those interested in the Compass to contact the administration. For more information on Compass High School go to compasshigh.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105