Summit Denali “Anticipated” to Close At the End of the Year Due to a Dire Financial Situation

Summit Public Schools: Denali, is “anticipated” to close by the Summit Board of Directors at the end of the school year due to a “perfect storm” financial situation. Denali, located in Sunnyvale next to the Bayshore Freeway,  opened its middle school with their founding class of 6th graders in 2013 and its high school in 2016. 

Following a community meeting the night prior, an email from the Summit Leadership Team on Thursday, January 12, explained to Denali’s students, staff, and families that, “there is not a sustainable financial path for Denali after this school year.”

At the end of the Community meeting, a community member stood up to share their thoughts on the community to Dianne Tavener, CEO of Summit Public Schools. “The only thing that I can compare this school to is a $75,000 per year private school… that’s how good this school is. And so I think you have, I’d hope to say, a fighting group here. We’re not going to go down with you guys. You know, we want the best… not only for our kids, but for the next round of kids. That’s how good this school is. So thank you for that.”

The same email from the Summit Leadership Team explained that Denali’s financial situation is caused by a few major changes. Denali’s loss of funding from California’s Charter School Facility Grant Program, Denali’s loss of funding from a student demographic shift in towards less low-income, multilingual learner, and homeless students, Denali’s middle school having a 6th grade resulting in higher operating costs, and Denali’s use of general funds to support students who need “special education services.” 

Slide from Denali Community Meeting Slide Deck titled “Denali has a structural deficit”

“[Denali] has always had a budget deficit. The Summit Home Office has provided the funds to clear Denali’s deficit every year.” said the email on January 12. The email went on to say, “[Denali] will require a $4.5 million investment to stay open for next year alone. The Home Office cash reserves will likely be $5-6 million [total for next year], and so the Home Office will not be able to make this investment next year.”

In the Question and Answer (Q&A) session following the presentation portion of the meeting, Tavener said “I think it was 25 million of [the 44.8 million] came from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chance.”

Slide from Denali Community Meeting Slide Deck titled “Summit Denali lifetime financial commitment”

The two nearest Summit Public Schools sites are Summit Tahoma in San Jose and Summit Everest in Redwood City, 15, and 11 miles from Denali respectively. However, the only other Summit schools with Middle Schools are Summit K2, and Summit Tamalpais, both located in the East Bay.

Tavener also stated that “I fundamentally believe there is space for the students who want to [attend other summit schools], we have space in the various grades.” Before saying, “We are working on seeing if there can be a preference [for Denali students in other Summit School’s lottery systems].” 

The Summit Public Schools board held a special meeting on January 23rd between 1-3pm to make space for the Denali community to share their thoughts.

(Cover Photo Credit: Sophia Garcia via Summit News)

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