East Bay Arts High School searches for new campus amid co-location challenges

The town hall in the multipurpose room of the San Lorenzo Adult School on Tuesday, Sept. 26. (Sonia Waraich - East Bay Echo)

SAN LORENZO, Calif. — In an effort to address ongoing challenges arising from the co-location of East Bay Arts High School with San Lorenzo High School, the San Lorenzo Unified School District is actively searching for a new campus for the arts-oriented institution. The search for a new campus has not been without its challenges since it could result in the displacement of students at the proposed locations.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the district conducted the second of two town halls dedicated to discussing the relocation of East Bay Arts, which the Board of Education is expected to make a decision on later this fall. The district has narrowed down the options to two potential sites: Edendale Middle School and the San Lorenzo Adult School.

“We do not have a standalone building,” said Interim Assistant Superintendent Renee Lama, “so we have to look at places where people are already in place, and part of our discussions is what happens next.”

The district established East Bay Arts in 2005, and it was co-located with Royal Sunset High School until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the board decided to temporarily relocate the school to San Lorenzo High. Students and teachers at the school said they have had issues coexisting with the other high schools and need their own campus. One student described being bullied at San Lorenzo High for being in the arts program while East Bay Arts Principal Alex Harp described having trouble reserving facilities for the arts program.

“Students are transferring out of East Bay Arts because it’s not what we promised,” Harp said. “Students are not coming into East Bay Arts because we are not what we were.”

Should the district opt for Edendale Middle School as the new location, it would involve consolidating both schools into a comprehensive 6-12 arts program. While Edendale Middle School is already equipped with the essential amenities for a functioning school, teachers at the middle school voiced concerns at the first town hall earlier this month about the potential loss of their distinct identity and community.

“Edendale’s teachers clearly feel both pride and a strong commitment to the school and its students,” Scott Faust, the district’s spokesperson, said in an email. “Those who spoke up at the town hall said they were concerned this change might not meet the needs of families who value the qualities of a traditional 6-8 middle school – or match their own preferences as teachers.”

On the other hand, relocating to the adult school campus would mean East Bay Arts could stay a 9-12 program but would necessitate significant modifications to render the site suitable for high school students. This option, however, would displace the existing adult school program. During the town hall meeting on Tuesday, current students and faculty members of the adult school program expressed their discomfort with this potential outcome.

“Our adult school students also need a safe environment,” said Sharon Xie, a teacher at the San Lorenzo Adult School, adding that the school has more than 800 students.

Lama acknowledged the complexity of the situation, emphasizing that any course of action would inevitably result in some level of student displacement. If the district chooses Edendale Middle, students may transfer out if they don’t want to be in an arts program.

If the adult school program were displaced, Lama said that the students and teachers in the program would have a voice in the program’s relocation process, similar to the voice East Bay Arts has been given in its relocation process.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.

Photo caption: Interim Assistant Superintendent Renee Lama speaks to a crowd of dozens at a town hall on relocating East Bay Arts High School in the multipurpose room of the San Lorenzo Adult School on Tuesday, Sept. 26. (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)

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