Photo by Lola M. Chávez

A private elementary school is eyeing one of the vacant commercial spaces below the Vida apartment complex on Mission Street near 22nd Street as a potential location for its expansion into middle school. Alta Vista School, a nonprofit private school, will have a public pre-application meeting on April 7 to get community feedback before it applies for a change of use permit with the Planning Department.

The school, located on Somerset Street between Bacon and Wayland streets in the Portola District,  emphasizes science and mathematics in its hands-on curriculum. Tuition is $23,000 annually. Admission is need-blind, and the school offers financial aid to about 20 percent of its student body.

“They really want to become part of the community,” said Liza Pannozzo, a project manager for the expansion. “The difficulty in finding space for schools in the city has made it a challenge for them to grow.”

The school currently serves kindergartners through sixth graders, but needs room to grow and plans to have sixth and seventh graders move to the Mission building.

Most of its students, said Pannozzo, come from the 94110 zip code.  One of the reasons may be that the school rented its first space from the Greek Orthodox church on Valencia Street before moving to Portola in 2012.

“We’re familiar with the area and we’re really excited at the opportunity to try to go back,” said Alta Vista trustee Elena Yang.

The school also has an emphasis on community service, encouraging its students to take on projects that give back to the city, Pannozzo said.

“There are other schools in the neighborhood that have tried and have been successful in being a good community neighbor, and so we want to try to be the same,” Yang said.

Classes at Alta Vista only have about eight students each in lower grades, but Yang said the classes will grow in size a bit at the middle school, opening up a few spots in each class that the school hopes to fill with new local students.

Three commercial spaces inside Vida have stood vacant since the building was completed in late 2014. They are currently zoned for restaurant or retail use and educational use is permitted with a change of use permit.

If the planning department grants the change of use application, Alta Vista will lease one of these spaces, about 5,900 square feet, and reconfigure it into six or seven classrooms that would be available for the middle schoolers in the fall.

The public meeting for this project will be held April 7 at 6:30 p.m. at 2558 Mission Street. 

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