Fourth small high school to open in Kensington this fall
by Erika Owens
Student activists are celebrating the School District’s decision to continue its small high school approach and open the Kensington Urban Education Academy this fall.
District Chief of Staff Tomas Hanna said the academy, the fourth school to grow out of the former Kensington High School, will have a curricular focus on teaching careers and social justice and will help create a pipeline of teachers of color and bilingual teachers.
The planned opening fulfills former CEO Paul Vallas’ commitment to Youth United for Change (YUC), a student organizing group, which has campaigned for years to replace Kensington High School with four schools.
The academy will be housed in the original high school building now shared by Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts (Kensington CAPA) and Kensington High School for Business, Finance, and Entrepreneurship. The other small school, Kensington Culinary, is in a former annex nearby.
Kensington CAPA moves into a new building this fall, and there had been concern that Kensington Business would take all the vacated space and revert to a large school.
YUC members testified at a November School Reform Commission meeting to thank District officials for upholding their commitment.
Dasha Scott of YUC, a senior at Kensington CAPA, said the new school “means a lot” because “Kensington won’t be as overcrowded, and there might be some people who don’t like culinary or business” and now have another option.
YUC started its push for small high schools when Vallas announced a major school construction program in 2002, The organization convened the community to develop a plan for breaking up Kensington High School, which housed more than 1,300 students.
District Chief of School Operations John Frangipani said, “The long-term goal for the Kensington schools is for each grade to have 100 students.” The new academy will start with 9th grade and add a grade each year.
The school is currently recruiting a principal. Frangipani said community members, parents, staff, and a regional superintendent will be on the principal selection committee, as is “normal protocol.”
“The principal will retain an advisory board” for ongoing community involvement, Frangipani said.