Didn’t catch Ms. Kauffman’s community meeting? Here’s what you need to know.

New campus, new rules.


Ruby Dowling

Head of School Nanci Kauffman held an hour-long Zoom webinar where she revealed more information about life on the temporary campus. Image courtesy of Castilleja School.

Castilleja plans to move to the College of San Mateo (CSM) for the next two years as the campus that the community has called home for over a century undergoes renovations. With this transition comes some big changes to student life including major changes to the classic Castilleja uniform.

The announcement was made by Head of School Nanci Kauffman and Associate Head of School Kathy Layendecker on an hour-long Zoom webinar for parents and students on Thursday night. The school later clarified in internal conversations with Counterpoint that this decision is still pending approval by the CSM board of trustees. The vote is set for May 10th.

In an email to the school the day before, she acknowledged that the information shared would be incomplete but to the best of the school’s knowledge, writing in bold that “there remain some details about our co-curricular programs, including Robotics and some of our Athletics, that are not yet resolved.”

Kauffman reminded the audience of this year’s theme, “Imagine”—something that was at points in the presentation hard to do, given the overwhelming amount of facets of student life labeled “TBD.” However, she asserted that all of the beloved Castilleja traditions, including the Tie Ceremony, will still exist next year.

Here are other highlights:

The Building

Layendecker revealed that Castilleja will be located next year at CSM in Building 14, also known as South Hall. Unlike Clearview, the location that Castilleja originally sought to secure, South Hall is located at the center of campus, which provides easy access to special facilities such as the library and the sports field. Although this change of plans caused some concern among the audience about safety and potential interactions with strangers, the facilitators maintained that this is the more ideal location.

Middle school classrooms will be housed on the first floor of South Hall, while upper schoolers will primarily take classes on the second floor. Dining will likely take place in the College Center, though Kauffman and Layendecker emphasized that much of the dining experience has yet to be finalized.

A map of the CSM campus shown during the presentation on Thursday night.

Student life

While a large portion of the presentation spoke to what student life will be like, the lack of detail painted a fuzzy—yet intriguing—picture of the student experience next year.

One intriguing element of this picture was that school will start 15 minutes later but still end at the same time. Additionally, there will be special programming for middle school students called the Castilleja Afterschool Program at CSM, or “CAP @ CSM.”

In addition to the information given in the presentation, answers to questions from the audience proved to be equally revealing. For example, a question from the chat led to the admission that there will not be lockers on the temporary campus; “we will come up with something that will work for students,” was Layendecker’s response.

Prior to the meeting, rumors had been circulating about a special schedule akin to the “flex time” of the pre-COVID days. Kauffman confirmed that, indeed, Wednesday afternoons will be dedicated to “experiential engagement.” She noted enthusiastically that this is due to popular demand for more experiential learning in the Castilleja curriculum, but did not provide much insight into what this will entail.

Other aspects of student life that remain to be determined include the existence of student spaces like a Senior Lounge, off-campus privileges, and the number of classes per day (which could increase to 5).

In partnership with the Temporary Space Student Advisory Committee, the uniform will undergo drastic changes while Castilleja students are at CSM. These changes are only for the duration of the school’s stay on the temporary campus.

The most unexpected announcement was the addition of official Castilleja sweatpants—an indication of what they will look like was unfortunately not shared—that may be worn on their own without the presence of a skirt. No other sweatpants may be worn, regardless of whether or not a student is wearing the skirt. Questions about this exciting new addition flooded the chat, though largely remained unanswered.

Jeans are also being added to the Castilleja uniform, but with strict regulations. According to Kauffman, they must be unfaded navy blue—not regular blue jeans—dark gray or black, with no tears or holes.

Another much anticipated announcement was that any socks may be worn with the regular uniform regardless of color or pattern.

The dress whites uniform has also undergone some changes: the “middy top” is no longer required, and students can instead wear a white blouse or button-down shirt with the class tie. Any plain white bottoms may be worn.


The locations of sports practices are another area that the Castilleja administration says they are still working out.

Most Upper School sports teams have guaranteed access to facilities at CSM with the exception of tennis, swimming and water polo. Water polo will be practicing at Woodside Priory, while the practice locations for the other two sports remain to be determined. The golf team will practice at nearby courses as they are now.

The locations for Middle School sports are not as set in stone. Where soccer, basketball, water polo and tennis will practice is still up in the air.

“Specialty Spaces” and Extracurricular Activities

Castilleja will have access to several specialized facilities at CSM that are outside of South Hall, which include the library, science labs, a 400-seat theater that will function as a stand-in for the Chapel Theater, a makerspace, the planetarium and observatory and several outdoor spaces including an amphitheater. Kauffman noted that whether or not Gatorbotics will be able to use the makerspace after school is still unclear.

There were several questions about the library as a shared space. While Castilleja will be sharing the library with CSM students, Castilleja students will have their own designated space.

Safety and Security

Parents and students alike were concerned about safety and security at CSM, especially given South Hall’s location in the center of campus and the number of shared buildings. Kauffman and Layendecker reassured the audience that students will be supervised by members of the Castilleja faculty and staff at all times, including in shared spaces like the library.

They also shared that CSM has housed other high schools before, including The Nueva School and the Middle College program.


Free from the iron fist of the Palo Alto CUP, all licensed drivers—including sophomores and juniors—may drive to school at CSM. Castilleja will have its own parking lot.

The number of bus and shuttle routes has been expanded to six, with routes posted on the Castilleja website. A 7th bus route that runs from San Mateo to Palo Alto at 6:15 p.m. every day has been added to accommodate students with after-school activities.

The last fifteen minutes of the program were dedicated to the Q&A section, which was dominated by reasonable questions of safety, transportation and, of course, sweatpants. The presenters answered some questions live, while a team of Castilleja administrators provided answers in the chat. Kauffman admitted that she was purposefully not answering many of the questions because so much is still unknown, but balanced this disconcerting fact with a chuckle about the volume of uniform-related questions. Kauffman ended the program by asking the audience, “hang in there with us.”

Correction Notice: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the certainty of Castilleja moving to CSM. We will learn on May 10 how the board voted on the issue, and until then no decisions or statements are final.