District Task Force Proposes New 6-12 Arts Academy

June 20, 2024

A June 18 update on the future of East Bay Arts (EBA) High School for the San Lorenzo Unified School District School Board brought forth a new idea: merging EBA, San Lorenzo High School and Edendale Middle School into a comprehensive academy for grades 6-12 focused on the arts and community transformation.


The proposed magnet school, presented with no timeline for implementation, would be located on what is now the shared campus of San Lorenzo High and EBA. It would open with a projected enrollment of about 700 students, compared with a current San Lorenzo-EBA enrollment of about 1,250. The campus at Edendale, where declining enrollment has fallen to a projected 450 students for 2024-25, would be repurposed.


Arroyo High School would maintain its traditional program for grades 9-12, and Royal Sunset High School would continue to serve students seeking an alternative program to earn their diplomas. Bohannon and Washington Manor middle schools would remain as grades 6-8, with capacity to grow as needed to accommodate family choice.


The June 18 meeting was the first time the board had addressed the subject of EBA since Oct. 17, when it considered a relocation of the school from its current co-location on the San Lorenzo High campus to the current site of the San Lorenzo Adult School.


The new concept for reorganization, as outlined by Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Dr. Renee Lama, emerged from an administrative task force that reviewed options for EBA’s future this spring. The small, arts-centered high school was co-located with Royal Sunset when it launched in 2005 and then was co-located on the San Lorenzo High campus starting with the 2020-21 school year.


Dr. Lama said the task force wrestled with the same challenges as the board had previously, weighing the EBA community’s desire for an independent school site and its impact on other schools and programs. As their discussion continued, she said, the group also confronted SLZUD’s declining districtwide enrollment, down from about 11,000 to 8,000 in the past 10 years.


They approached the new arts academy as a way to make the most of the district’s school sites, offering a grades 6-12 alternative that could potentially attract students from outside SLZUSD. In addition to a focus on performing, visual, digital and language arts, the combined middle and high school would emphasize student inclusivity, empowerment and social-emotional well-being. Those aspects of school climate, sometimes described as “liberatory learning,” are also considered hallmarks of EBA’s current culture, influenced in part by its small enrollment of 130 students.


The combined school would be open to all students, with priority for those already attending San Lorenzo and East Bay Arts high schools. It would also prioritize rising sixth- through eighth-graders who live in the geographic service area of Edendale Middle School, located a half-mile north of San Lorenzo High on Ashland Avenue.


As outlined by Dr. Lama, potential advantages of the new magnet school include greater continuity throughout students’ secondary school experience, increased variety of electives at all five grade levels, and a school culture that combines high academic expectations and the liberatory spirit.


Board President Samuel Medina thanked task force members for their work regarding the future of EBA, saying, “I feel the team has done a great job of capturing and hearing the concerns and the wants from all the different stakeholders – from board members, from our students and from community members from different sites. I feel very heard, and I hope those who heard this initial update also feel the same way.”


Trustee Kyla Sinegal echoed that, praising participants for facing up to difficult choices and for imagining how a new school could capture what she called “the special energy that rises out of East Bay Arts” while also improving students’ academic achievement.


Trustee Penny Peck highlighted several questions about the proposal that she said need to be explored, ranging from exactly how younger and older students would share a single campus to possible transportation for Edendale-area sixth- through eighth-graders whose families opted for them to attend Bohannon or Washington Manor on the west side of the district.


As he opened the board discussion, Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp stressed that people throughout the SLZUSD community and district employees will have multiple opportunities to learn about this possible reorganization, beginning in early fall, and also share their input, including through a family survey.


“We fully intend to set up informational discussion sessions with a broad group of our community, and we hope that we can eventually make a decision,” he said, adding that input would also be sought on how best to complete the transition if the board decides to move forward with a plan.