Palo Alto Prep founder and director Chris Keck stumbled upon a company that was closing its doors, Roche Pharmaceutical. What appeared to be a failed venture in the pharmaceutical industry turned out to be a gold mine for Keck.
"Every thing you see here is from Roche," Keck said waving his hand around the brilliantly clean and bright new offices. Keck pointed to the to the doors, explaining how they are fireproof. "We don't need them, but we got them for free."
Walking through the building, one would never guess that this school was made from the guts of a pharmaceutical company. At least, until you enter the gleaming chemistry classroom that bristles with the latest technology.
While finding a closing pharmaceutical company to furnish your new school may have been lucky, there was nothing lucky about how Palo Alto Prep was able to move the entire school in just four days.
Moving an entire high school during the school year is no small feat. Moving a high school during a long weekend and being ready for class on Monday is akin to a miracle.
Keck said he hopes the move will help make reality closer to his vision for the school. The director said he felt restricted by the old facility in Cubberley.
"(Cubberley) opened in the '50s, then closed in the '70s. We moved in shortly after that and it was tired then," Keck said. "Then in the last 25 years it's gotten real sleepy."
The old facility occupied roughly 4,000 square feet. The new building boasts 11,000 square feet — enough room to comfortably accommodate the school's current student body, and allow it room to grow.
While Palo Alto Prep is a self-described specialty school, it offers a broad range of curriculum and a diverse student body.
The laid back atmosphere of the school is epitomized by Cruz, the school's mascot. Cruz is a 120-pound, 5-year-old German Sheppard who roams around the school seeking scratches and pats. Despite his intimidating appearance, the shaggy mascot is a gentle giant who promotes the school's philosphy of openness and friendship.
Palo Alto Prep draws from the area's public and private high schools. Dean of Students Lisa O'Hearn-Keck described their usual student as one who has the educational talent to go to college, but did not fit into the local high schools' college tracks.
"The kids that go to school here are kids that in mainstream environment, in a large class size, would probably get grades a level below what they would get with small class size," O'Hearn-Keck said.
Small class size is the school's calling card, with an average of five to eight students. Palo Alto Prep also offers learning outside the classroom environment, including several trips around the country and one international trip each year.
Tuition at Palo Alto Prep hovers around $25,000 a year according to Keck, which includes the trips, with the exception of overnight stays.
The high school also uses technology to keep parents in the loop on how their students are performing. Parents receive weekly report cards, and teachers post all assignments on the Internet so parents can take a look for themselves.
While Palo Alto Prep has increased their use of technology, the move will also allow them to grow their student body. In their old facility, the student population was around 60.
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