AltSchool its closing two schools and shifting its focus

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The innovative private school backed by Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel and other tech-prominent investors, announced is closing the Palo Alto and East Village campuses to focus on licensing educational software to existing schools.

Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch

AltSchool, an innovative private school backed by Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel and other tech-prominent investors, announced is closing at least two locations and scaling back its ambitious plan of expansion across the U.S., only five years after opening. 

“This week, we made the painful decision to close two of our lab schools after this school year: Palo Alto and East Village,” said Max Ventilla, AltSchool Founder & CEO, in an official announcement published on the school blog. “Starting in Fall 2018, our lab school network will have four locations: two in San Francisco (Fort Mason and Yerba Buena) and two in New York (Brooklyn Heights and Union Square).” 

Despite charging about $28,000 for tuition, AltShool has been spending about $40 million per year, Bloomberg reported. The startup was built with funding from top investors including Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Laurene Powell Jobs, Andreessen Horowitz and others.

The school, created by former Google executive Max Ventilla, launched in 2013 with the goal of providing personalized education through a network of micro-schools with nine locations in California and New York. Ventilla told Bloomberg the startup will shift its focus to licensing educational software to existing schools instead of creating new ones.

“Our mission remains to enable all children to reach their potential. AltSchool exists because we believe that education can be much better for all children,” said Ventilla in the official announcement. “That means, first and foremost, that our lab schools help students thrive. That means supporting our educators in their continuous professional development. That means taking every step we can to ensure that we can run our schools at the highest standard of excellence for the long term.”

Despite the support from venture investors, AltSchool and other similar innovative ventures seem to be struggling to expand its new vision of education. It’s not because of lack of capital. According to Bloomberg, EdTech startups haven’t come up with a formula that can be deployed efficiently and profitably. The education system seems to be very resistant to change.