Every Tuesday Coast Redwood High School teacher Keidi Lewis holds a tea party, which the high schoolers look forward to because of the cookies, she says. She incorporates tea into lessons, like the time they made chai—from scratch—as part of a unit about India. (Courtesy of Keidi Lewis)

Keidi Lewis, a Spanish and history teacher at Coast Redwood High School, part of the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District’s dependent charter, describes the place she works as a best-kept secret she’d like the world to know about.

That’s because the homeschool and independent studies-focused learning environment, anchored at a site on Marion Avenue in Ben Lomond, also features in-person classes and access to extracurricular programs at the District’s main campus in Felton.

“We’re so cool for a certain kind of kid. We get all this good feedback. There’s a place for everyone and, if they find it, they can thrive,” Lewis said. “We have four classrooms, and in the middle of them is this nice indoor center area where kids work when they’re not in class. That’s where I have my tea time.”

Lewis admits she has a terrible habit of collecting tea cups everywhere she goes. But she turned it into an educational device for her students.

Every Tuesday she holds a tea party, which the high schoolers look forward to because of the cookies, she says. She incorporates tea into lessons, like the time they made chai—from scratch—as part of a unit about India.

That typifies the approach to education espoused by the teachers and administrators at Coast Redwood High.

“We call it a hybrid homeschool,” she said. “That’s what’s fun about it. We can tailor their academic experience to what they’re looking for.”

They manage homeschoolers who hardly come in at all, as they work their way through independent classes. But not everyone wants to be all-remote-all-the-time, something that became clear over the more than two decades CRHS has been operating.

“We just learned after years and years our homeschoolers wanted classes,” Lewis said. “We have all different kinds of goals and pathways and flexibility.”

Coast Redwood High School is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

SLV Charter officials say Coast Redwood provides opportunities for older learners to mentor younger ones through school-wide activities, like theater productions and athletic events.

Coast Redwood High School students play a round of Uno with giant cards. District officials will hold an info session April 25 about what attending the charter school is all about. (Courtesy of Keidi Lewis)

Lewis, who majored in social sciences at Cal Poly SLO, said it was amazing to watch the rock n’ roll-themed “Peter Pan” musical recently, which served up plenty of memorable moments—such as a Coast Redwood High student dressed as a crocodile chasing Captain Hook.

“Just having that many earnest, shining faces on stage…it’s the best,” she said. “It’s super awesome.”

Coast Redwood High can be the perfect nurturing environment for kids who have struggled in other settings. A lot of students appreciate the lack of “transition time,” the delays between actual learning—such as when teachers hand out paper to a large classroom, or a disruptive student derails the classroom one way or another.

Lewis says kids like getting to work at their own pace and delve into subject matter that actually interests them. But she says it’s not for everyone.

“You have to be somewhat motivated,” she said. “We’re not the panacea for everyone.”

Nevertheless, she’s thankful that the community—which includes students and parents who live far beyond the SLVUSD boundaries—has this alternative.

There’s plenty on tap for Coast Redwood High students this semester, she explains.

“We are having a spirit week where we do dress-up days at the end of March,” she said. “We have a yearbook class that plans events and parties and takes pictures of them to put in the yearbook.”

It’s all in service of making sure no student falls through the cracks, she explains.

Lewis used to teach 150 kids, which didn’t allow her to give the same level of attention to each one.

“You just kind of guess about what’s going on with them, or you get a little glimpse,” she said, noting it’s completely different at CRHS. “I feel like our kids know that we’re going to be looking out for their wellbeing.”

Students and parents who want to know more can attend an upcoming informational session on Tuesday, April 25, at 5:30pm at 305 Marion Ave. in Ben Lomond, or call 831-335-0909.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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