On January 9, Design Tech High School, a charter school authorized by the San Mateo Union High School District, moved from the North, industrial side of Burlingame to the spiffy Oracle campus in Redwood Shores. The move had been in progress for years, seeing as d.tech had known since its opening in fall of 2014 that its original campus could not fit the maximum number of students. This is the first school year that d.tech has all four grades enrolled, and as a result, the school was separated and seniors took classes at the San Mateo Adult School. With the opening of the Oracle campus, this is no longer an issue. Freshmen to seniors can all benefit from the amenities of the new building, sponsored and funded but not controlled by Oracle. The technology company also provides d.tech students with internships, helps out with intersession programs, and is a benefactor of school clubs including the robotics team.
“The new campus is just beautiful,” said d.tech junior Asa Bensaid. “It’s state-of-the-art, and it’s ready for us. The environment is so different. The building itself feels different. The only thing that doesn’t is the people and the culture.”
Compared to d.tech’s old location in a warehouse in Burlingame, the Oracle campus is a massive change and a welcome one. The previous building was one big room that lacked real walls dividing the classrooms, so students had difficulty hearing their teachers over the noise of other classes’ lectures. The Oracle campus has separate rooms for each class, yet some students feel as though that has eliminated some of the sense of community that the open space brought. Additionally, having a corporate campus means that there are more rules and regulations than the free-thinking, flexible d.tech students are used to.
“The new campus is definitely a lot more school-like than the old campus,” d.tech freshman Alex Palmeter said. “It creates a quieter space and lets us have more of a learning environment, although it was kind of nice to have the free space before. It’s harder to find people now.”
Another challenge that has yet to be solved is the commute. While the Burlingame campus was small and under-developed, it was also a ten-minute walk from the Millbrae station that served Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Caltrain. Many d.tech students have lengthy commutes, and while the Oracle campus is located in the Redwood Shores community of Redwood City, it is nearly five miles away from the Redwood City Caltrain station. Currently, there is no student parking. D.tech operates shuttles out of the Belmont and San Carlos Caltrain stations and encourages students to bike or carpool to and from school. This is not possible for everyone, though. For students such as Palmeter and Bensaid, who both live in San Francisco, their commutes are expensive and upwards of two hours each way.
“A lot of students, especially upperclassmen, live anywhere from Montara to Berkeley to San Francisco,” said d.tech junior Thomas Weese. “For students who live North of Millbrae, having to pay for both BART and Caltrain is incredibly inconvenient. For students who live somewhere like Montara where there is no public transportation, they need somewhere to put their car and walk because there is no student parking.”
However, d.tech’s many technical problems are one of its draws for problem-solving students. Bensaid appreciates d.tech because he has much more control to fix issues and improve the school than he would in a traditional high school environment. Since the beginning, students have been able to help in the design and construction of the new building and tailor it to their needs. Weese added that d.tech is still figuring everything out and that nothing is set in stone. The Oracle campus has eliminated a lot of problems, but it also brings new and fresh challenges.
“d.tech has a lot of problems to solve,” Bensaid said. “You can think of it as a beta version. There’s always new bugs we’re encountering. For some people, that would turn them away. But for me, I love having the opportunity to solve those problems.”