Amidst the final stretch of planning to open a new tech-centric Menlo Park high school, the principal said enrollment estimations are rounding into shape and excitement is on the rise.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Sequoia Union High School District officials held a community meeting with families interested in sending their students to the inaugural year at the forthcoming TIDE Academy.
Principal Shamar Edwards said administrators shared an update on the school’s progress with the families of the nearly 180 students who applied to enroll at the campus under construction near the Bayfront Expressway.
Edwards said with the school set to open in August to a class of 115 students, she is proud of the progress made to establish a welcoming environment for the first class of students and teachers.
“It’s been by far my most amazing year in education. This is technically 15 years as an administrator, and one reason you get into administration is to have a larger impact. And we have, I think, made many informed decisions about preparing kids for the future they are going to live in,” she said.
The school’s TIDE acronym, which stands for technology, innovation, design and engineering, will aim to weave core curriculum into a lesson plan emphasizing career technical education and project-based learning.
Edwards said teachers are encouraged to creatively integrate standards such as English and history into their classes which will also feature projects promoting social action to help students understand the relevance of their lessons.
The school will also collaborate with Foothill Community College, Facebook and other nearby technology companies to offer students unique exposure to opportunities less readily available at comprehensive high schools.
Teachers are seeking to strike an appropriate balance between cutting-edge lessons which leave room for soft skill development without reinventing the foundation of a traditional high school education said Edwards.
“We aren’t going rogue,” she said. “We are still accountable to the state standards.”
Edwards lauded the commitment of an evolving team of roughly eight teachers to help establish the school’s direction. Those teachers will work alongside the inaugural class of students to round out the culture of the school which Edwards said is one of the more exciting components of the school planning process.
The first freshman class will select the school mascot, pick the sports in which the school will participate, found the original clubs and craft the student government structure, among other pivotal school choices.
“There is a lot of voice and say in how the school morphs and evolves based on their input,” said Edwards.
With a process ahead to whittle down the enrollment applications, Edwards said interest from across the communities served by the Sequoia Union High School District has been expressed to join the school.
Edwards added much of the enrollment interest has been focused in Menlo Park, which aligns with the desire of officials to open the school near the district’s southern border to offset capacity concerns at Menlo-Atherton High School.
Edwards said it is too early to tell whether the original enrollment interest expressed by applicants will sustain through the final student identification process, as it is reasonable to expect some attrition will occur.
But Edwards said the initial applications exceeded the school’s first class capacity by about 65 students, as a lottery was needed to select who may be eligible to enroll and a waitlist was crafted to fill available spots. Once operating at full capacity, Edwards said she expects TIDE Academy to serve approximately 400 students and about 30 teachers.
Administrators have received monthly opportunities to view the school’s construction progress and, as the facility continues taking shape, Edwards said so does enthusiasm for its grand opening this summer.
“I feel honored and privileged to be a part of something this big,” she said. “Because what I think we are building is going to be an exemplary, model school.”
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