Oracle is building a 64,000-square-foot high school for 550 kids right on its own huge corporate campus in Redwood City, Calif., and the students themselves helped design the school.
The project is thanks to Oracle CEO Safra Catz. Catz chairs the company’s Education Foundation, one of the Oracle’s philanthropic organizations. It donates technology and money to schools.
Oracle has a program where Oracle employees volunteer at schools for multi-day science, tech, engineering, and math (STEM) projects. It had been working with Design Tech High School (d.Tech), a new charter public school in the San Mateo Union High School District that launched in 2014.
At the time, d.Tech was using six classrooms within another school and was quickly outgrowing its space.
Hearing about the growing school, Catz stood up and said, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” Colleen Cassity, Executive Director, Oracle Education Foundation, who was in that meeting, told Business Insider.
Catz stood up, went to the window and pointed to a vacant piece of land. (They were high up in the executive tower at Oracle which overlooks a good chunk of Oracle’s enormous campus.)
Catz said, “We could build them a school there. Go and find out how.”
Catz told CNBC that building a high school had always been a dream of her boss, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.
“Larry Ellison asked me when I first joined Oracle if we could have a high school at Oracle,” she said. After meeting with the d.Tech people and hearing their educational philosophy she says, “I thought. This is it! It has finally come together. Larry’s original vision and this high school.”
While Catz graciously gives Ellison credit for the idea all those years ago (she joined Oracle in 1999), those involved say that this project was Catz’s baby and a labor of love at that.
Oracle’s Redwood City campus has a very lux feel and Oracle is going all-out with this new school, which will feature state of the art tech, huge design studios and workshops, and even a physics lab.
And because this is a school of design, the students helped the architect design the building to fit their special learning needs. Oracle now has all the approvals and plans in place and will break ground in May, it says.
Oracle isn’t the only tech company to announce a new school. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan said they are building a private elementary school in East Palo Alto (the disadvantaged city that neighbors the posh town of Palo Alto). Other tech companies are also donating hundreds of millions to schools.
Catz said that tech companies feel an obligation to do something to improve education.
“It is absolutely critical for competitiveness in the United States for us to really raise the bar in education. Especially in math and science and technology. I’m absolutely thrilled about what Mark and Priscilla are doing and what everyone is dong. The more the merrier,” she said.
D.tech has no plans to open more schools nationwide, but it is sharing its instructional practices with other schools, the schools executive director and founder Ken Montgomery says. Montgomery believes that d.Tech will also become a model for how other public schools can collaborate with the private sector.
Here’s the architect’s rendering of the new school.
Here’s a peek at the classroom layout.
Here’s the vacant land Catz pointed to from the window.
Here’s more photos and info about Oracle’s new high school.