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May 21, 2018

Changemakers: Palo Alto Families Bring Two New Schools to Community

Sam Franklin, VP of Schools

Last fall, our Palo Alto community made an important decision: to fight for the school experience they loved.

AltSchool's decision to close its Palo Alto campus after this school year has been widely documented and shared. But what happened behind the scenes since then is much less known. It is a story of resilience, collaboration, and renewal, all rooted in a deep commitment to whole-child, personalized learning.

Within hours of learning about the planned closure of the school, Palo Alto parents started a Change.org petition to save the school. They quickly organized into working groups to explore various ways their learning community could continue. AltSchool executives and educators began collaborating with the group to evaluate a wide variety of options -- from finding another school to take over the lab school facility, securing a new location, recruiting AltSchool Palo Alto teachers, and so on.

In parallel, AltSchool worked closely with parents and students as they considered attending some of the other outstanding schools in the local area. We brought in professional placement specialists, contacted dozens of potential schools on behalf of students, and worked with their admissions teams on interviews and transcripts. Our goal in notifying parents so far in advance was to ensure we had this period to partner together on helping them access excellent school options for the coming school year.

Today, just six months later, these incredible families are responsible for bringing two exciting new school options to the local community: Guidepost Montessori and the Imagination Lab School.

These parents are true changemakers. Beginning next fall, Guidepost Montessori will move into our Emerson Street lab school site where current AltSchool educator Carolyn Burns will become its Teaching Head of School. Led by parent company Higher Ground Education, Guidepost Montessori already operates 15 schools nationwide. Its goal is to bring Montessori options to more traditional education communities, and help new schools to open using the Montessori approach. We are pleased to have found such a great partner for the space who will continue operating a school in the neighborhood. To learn more, visit Guidepost Montessori.  AltSchool parent and current Palo Alto Head of School Chris Bezsylko will lead the new Imagination Lab School, also opening in the fall, with the support of four current AltSchool educators. To help the school get started, AltSchool will provide the majority of the custom furniture, fixtures, and equipment. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Imagination Lab School or read more in last week’s Palo Alto Weekly.

Moving forward, AltSchool will continue to collaborate with both schools and our Palo Alto families to ensure the transitions are successful.

Working with this passionate community of families over the course of this school year has taught us so much. We believe that foundational character skills like agency, grit, creativity, and collaboration are key to a quality education. These are traits our educators strive to nurture in their students every day. Closing any school is incredibly hard for everyone involved and yet, throughout this journey, we have been deeply honored and humbled to see these traits in action in parents and children alike.

As our final school year at Palo Alto comes to a close, we thank the inspiring families who have made this all possible. You are part of the growing community of educators and parents dedicated to a student-centric model of learning and we know that our students will be well served by the new schools you’ve brought to Palo Alto.

With respect,

Sam Franklin

AltSchool VP of Schools

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